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History & Introduction


The name is originated from the Latin word 'lapis' meaning 'stone', and from the Arabic and Persian word 'lazaward'. In Persian the word 'Lazaward" means lapis stone, as well as the name of its mining location. In other parts of the world, words for 'blue' were named after the color of lapis, including the English word 'azure'; Italian 'azzurro'; Polish 'azur'; Spanish 'azur' and Romanian 'azuriu'. Currently, lapis lazuli is still considered to be one of the most important opaque blue gemstones available.

Lapis lazuli is a combination of minerals particularly lazurite and alcite widely used with glittering of iron pyrites. Marco Polo in 1271, boarded on ancient lapis mines in Afghanistan and from there it was traded to other parts of the world. The lapis lazuli is a striking gem and it was regarded in ancient Egypt and even by the Jews, since it considered as the high pastor body protective covering. The lapis lazuli was used to soothing the physical and psychic disorders in Egyptian civilization. It was used to control upon the bad influences of attacks of incest on the human body by mostly the pharaohs.

The funeral mass for the ancient Egyptian pharaoh 'King Tut' was also decorated with lapis lazuli. Lapis stones are actually created in crystalline marble with the geological process of contact metamorphism and because the composition is technically defined as a rock instead of a mineral. It is primarily made up of lazurite, while the remaining composition is made up of calcite, sodalite, pyrite and other various minor constituents. Its exact coloring is actually affected by the varying composition.

Recognise - Lapis lazuli is a rock primarily composed of lazurite (25% to 40%), calcite and pyrite. Lazurite is a feldspathoid silicate and belongs to the sodalite group of minerals. Minor constituents includes to augite, nosean, diopside, hauynite, enstatite, mica and hornblende. Lapis lazuli is easily confused with other blue opaque gems such as azurite and sodalite, however azurite has a lower hardness and is characteristically darker in color than lapis lazuli. Whereas sodalite mainly has a lighter color and its granularity is not as fine as that of lapis lazuli.

Availability - Around 6000 years ago Lapis lazuli gemstone was found, the oldest lapis lazuli deposits are found in the difficult terrain of the West Hindu-Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. Currently, Afghanistan is famous for producing the finest quality lapis lazuli and is also the most important source. Other commercial deposits are found in Angola, Canada, Argentina, Chile (North of Santiago), India, Pakistan, Italy, Myanmar (Burma), Russia and the United States (California and Colorado).

Buying Guide

Color - Although the color of lapis lazuli is cleared with its name, 'the blue stone', and its colors actually ranges from slightly greenish blue to violets, medium to dark and from low to highly saturated. The blue is due to sulphur coloring agents. The finest stones shows uniformly distributed color and have no visible deposits of calcite, even if the moderate amount of gold pyrite flecks is used to be acceptable. Too much pyrite results in a dull with greenish tint, though calcite is predominate the mix, providing the stone an overall little attractive lighter blue shade.

An equally distributed, extremely saturated, to some extent violet-blue color with little to no pyrite or calcite is the most prized; stones of this quality are sometimes referred to as 'Afghan' or 'Persian'. Lapis colors are often described using an adjective that refers to a specific locality, however it never meant that the gem actually came from that specific part. Like 'Chilean lapis' actually is not a stone coming from Chile, but actually it is a term that is used frequently for lapis with a green touch that includes with white calcite.

Clarity and Lustre - Lapis lazuli is available in opaque in clarity. It is frequently included with changing amounts of pyrite and its host rock matrix; calcite.It can have a vitreous to greasy and sometimes dull luster when it is polished.

Cut and Shape - Lapis lazuli comes in different kinds of cuts and shapes. It is mostly cut en cabochon for bracelets, rings, necklaces and beads, as well as vases, carved sculptures and various ornamental objects. Oval, round and spherical shapes are maximum in use, along with fancier hearts and trillions.

Treatment - Lapis lazuli is naturally not treated or enhanced in any kind. However, still there are lighter materials may be dyed to result in deeper blues; dyed lapis may also be coated or with wax or plastic to improve stability. Number of cases are found of lapis where it may be impregnated with wax or resin to better the color and luster. Even synthetic lapis lazuli are found known as ‘Gilson lapis’ and there are large number of simulated stones too, naturally dyed howlite or jasper. Dyed jasper is often referred to as ‘Swiss lapis’.

Usages - Lapis Lazuli is an opaque gemstone and is cut into beads as well as cabochons and used mainly in bracelets, pendants and necklaces. Ornate carvings with utensils are also made with Lapis, mainly animal snuff boxes, carvings and talismans.

Gemmological Characteristics:

Chemical Formula Na6Ca2[S,SO4,Cl2)2lAl6Si6O24] Sodium calcium aluminium silicate
Crystal Structure (Cubic) rare, dense aggregates
Color Lazur blue, violet, greenish-blue
Hardness 5.00 to 6.00
Refractive Index 1.50 (approximate)
Density 2.50 to 3.00
Cleavage Indistinct
Transparency Opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence None
Shine Vitreous, greasy to dull
Fluorescence Strong: White, also orange, copper color
Mineral Class Rock

Classification:

  • Swiss Lapis - Jasper that is dyed blue to simulate Lapis Lazuli.
  • Gilson Lapis - Synthetic Lapis simulant that is used to simulate Lapis Lazuli.