What can I find in this article?
- Lapis Lazuli Colors
- Lapis Lazuli Species
- Lapis Lazuli Clarity and Cut
- What is the spiritual meaning of Lapis Lazuli?
- Lapis Lazuli and the Chakras
- Health Benefits of Lapis Lazuli
- Lapis Lazuli Price
- Lapis Lazuli Discovery and History
- Where is Lapis Lazuli found?
- How is Lapis Lazuli formed?
- Can Lapis Lazuli be treated?
- What Jewelry is Lapis Lazuli suitable for?
- Did you know? Fascinating facts about Lapis Lazuli
- How to care for Lapis Lazuli
- How can you tell a real Lapis Lazuli?
- What is so special about Lapis Lazuli?
- Can Lapis Lazuli change color?
- Lapis Lazuli - Gemological Properties
Lapis Lazuli Gemstone Information
Lapis Lazuli Introduction
If we look at the name Lapis Lazuli itself we can see its importance to the world of gemstones. Lapidary is the name of a person who cuts, shapes and polishes rough gemstones into objects of beauty, the word comes from Lapis meaning stone.
Contrary to popular belief, Lazuli did not mean blue, it was the name of an area where the gemstone could be found, but it became so completely identified with the blue that the color was named after the gemstone! Lazuli is the root of the English word azure which describes the almost ideal blue color and the French seaside resort town of Cote d'Azur is so named for its stunning blue sea.
So Lapis Lazuli is the quintessentially blue gemstone, the one you see decorating the tombs of Egyptian mummies, covering the gates of Babylonian cities, adorning the rings, bracelets and necklaces of Roman nobility and starring in exhibitions of ancient artifacts in museums around the world.
The majority of gemstones are valued by their color and none more so than Lapis Lazuli – if it is not blue it is not Lapis Lazuli, and the bluer the better! The ideal color is a vivid, even, dark blue color, perhaps with violet undertones. Lapis Lazuli nearly always has some blemishes or inclusions, usually white calcite or golden pyrite, and uniform colored gemstones with fewer inclusions are valued higher.
Pyrite can cause attractive patterns of golden flecks in a deep blue background and if it is not too dense can enhance the appearance and increase the price. White streaks of calcite are quite common and not so attractive so this will lower the value.
Unusually for a gemstone, Lapis Lazuli is technically a rock not a mineral like most. It is an aggregate of several minerals such as lazurite, pyrite, calcite, feldspar, mica, diopside and others. It is the lazurite that provides the blue color with better quality gemstones being at least 25% lazurite.
The gemstone Lapis Lazuli is a rare metamorphic rock which is a combination of a number of minerals which can include calcite, pyrite, diopside and others but must always contain lazurite (sometimes referred to as Hauyne).
Generally any gemstone with this chemical make-up and an underlying blue color will be considered Lapis Lazuli. There are a couple of sub-varieties of Lapis Lazuli which have trade names to differentiate themselves:
- Chilean Lapis which has less golden pyrite and more white calcite streaks
- Denim Lapis a lighter colored gemstone close in color to faded jeans.
Lapis Lazuli is an opaque gemstone which is primarily blue but with white or golden streaks caused by the presence of other minerals. The gold flecks caused by pyrite can be very attractive and will not lower the price unlike white streaks caused by calcite.
As an opaque gemstone, Lapis Lazuli is very rarely faceted unless it has an especially deep and even blue coloring, and is usually cut and polished into dome shapes or cabochons. These cabochons are often shaped into ovals or rounds but sometimes into odd or free form-shapes that make ideal unique jewelry.
The holy men and shamans of the past certainly realized the spiritual power of Lapis Lazuli, it has adorned the burial chambers of the nobility of Ancient Sumeria and Egypt, been carved into amulets and talismans by Greeks and Assyrians and used as an aphrodisiac by the Romans. At least 6000 years of Sacred history is hard to ignore.
How about the modern world? Communication through social media has inhibited many of us when it comes to meeting people face to face and when that happens Lapis Lazuli will be your best buddy. It will give you the confidence and the courage to overcome uncertainty and insecurity and help you make new friends and possible lovers. Taking a Lapis Lazuli gemstone to a party is a sure fire way to feel comfortable and relaxed.
It is an ideal meditation gemstone, you can clear your mind of negativity and pour in clear critical thoughts and energy. Lapis lazuli will then help manifest all your dreams and ambitions. If you are not practiced in the art of mediation simply place a Lapis Lazuli gemstone on the side of the bath while you relax in the warm soothing waters and let it do its work.
Lapis Lazuli is a lucky gemstone and that means lucky in love, with money and with your job, not only in gaining new love, wealth or employment but in enhancing current love and faithfulness, keeping your finances in order and advancing your present career.
Chakras are the energy centers in your body also known as Qi or Prana. There are seven Chakras throughout the body each influencing a particular physical, emotional or mental state and each has an associated color. The seven chakras are as follows, Crown linked with the color purple, Third Eye (indigo), Throat (blue), Heart (green), Solar Plexus (yellow), Sacral (orange) and Root (red). Depending on which color is most dominant in your Lapis Lazuli gemstone will determine which chakra it will have most influence on.
Laspis Lazuli is synonymous with the Throat Chakra. If you are having trouble communicating with loved ones or colleagues at work, this gemstone will help. If you cannot express yourself in the way that you wish or find yourself misunderstood by those around you, Lapis lazuli is the answer. Physically, sore throats, neck stiffness or pains, headaches through neck and shoulder tension are all symptoms of Throat Chakra issues and can be addressed with the help of this gorgeous blue gemstone.
Lapis Lazuli can also influence the Third Eye Chakra, especially the deep blue, almost violet specimens. Use this gemstone to organize and calm your thoughts and deal with any nightmares you may suffer.
Lapis Lazuli has physical benefits for the respiratory and nervous systems as well as blood circulation, blood pressure and pre-menstrual tension. Sore throats, trouble with the larynx and stiff necks, migraines and headaches as well as insomnia and dizziness can be alleviated by Lapis Lazuli.
We are often asked how to use gemstones for spiritual or health benefits and while we are certainly not experts in this field we have gained some experience and knowledge. Of course wearing the gemstone as a piece of jewelry is the easiest way for it to influence your body. Lapis Lazuli pendants, necklaces and earrings are perfect for influencing the Throat and Third Eye Chakras.
Alternatively they can be placed in your purse or pocket and used as a touchstone throughout the day. Hold crystals or place them in your lap while meditating. Easiest of all, just lay down with crystals on your body, lined up with the chakra points if possible.
Lapis Lazuli should be cleaned every month to keep it at its maximum potential. You can do this by running the stone under tepid water and drying it with a soft cloth. Do not soak it in water or leave a Lapis lazuli gemstone to dry by itself.
Lapis lazuli Price List
Price range / USD
$0.8 - 4/ct
Lapis lazuli is generally a reasonably priced gemstone with nice deep blue specimens reaching $2 to $3 dollars per carat and only especially fine examples reaching much higher.
The most valuable Lapis Lazuli will be described as deep blue, midnight blue, violet blue or sometimes indigo blue. It may have a scattering of gold flecks caused by pyrite but not too much and no white blemishes although this is very subjective as a dusting of white in a deep blue background can be very evocative of a night sky and much admired.
Light colored gemstones with lots of stripes or patches of white, grey or black will be valued much lower although there is a market developing for light blue or denim colored Lapis Lazuli.
Persian or Afghani Lapis Lazuli has a reputation for being the best quality although there are some nice examples coming out of Chile as well.
Lapis lazuli can come in almost any carat size and the best cuts and shapes maximize the quality of the deep blue color and any attractive specks of gold or white. As it can be found in large sizes it can be carved into free-form or odd shapes which are ideal for unique jewelry pieces.
Mining for Lapis Lazuli stretches back to as early as 7000BC in the mountainous province of Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan and the Pamir Mountains of southern Tajikistan. The Lapis Lazuli found in Ancient Egyptian tombs is believed to have come from these mines.
One of the earliest writings of mankind tells the story of Gilgamesh, a ruler of Uruk, the ancient name for Iraq, from around 2750 BC. In this story the Goddess of Love and War, Ishtar, says to Gilgamesh
"Be you my husband, and I will be your wife.
I will have harnessed for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and gold,
with wheels of gold and 'horns' of electrum."
The bible speaks many times of the precious jewel sapphire, but from the various descriptions, it seems pretty clear that what they are referring to was really Lapis Lazuli with pyrite inclusions,
'Its stones are the place of sapphires and it has dust of gold.'
True sapphires were not commonly used in the ancient kingdoms and were very difficult to carve and inscribe since they are such a hard gemstone unlike the much softer, Lapis Lazuli. Because of this softness, this blue gemstone was carved into many practical as well as decorative objects such as bowls, handles, combs, boxes, vases and bottles.
Another use for Lapis Lazuli has been as a color pigment. Powdered Lapis Lazuli was used to create the iconic Egyptian eye-shadow and in Europe during the Middle Ages it was mixed with oil to create stunning blue paint used in some of the art world's most famous creations.
Lapis Lazuli has been mined in the mountains of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan for thousands of years and this area is still the main source of this precious gemstone. Large deposits are found in the Andes Mountains of Chile, it is not as highly regarded as Afghanistan Lapis Lazuli but commonly used around the world.
Other sources include Lake Baikal in Russia, Baffin Island in Canada as well as parts of the USA, Myanmar, and Europe but these deposits are generally of lower quality and quantity.
Imagine a rock formation in the Earth's crust made up of mostly marble rock material with a mix of many other minerals. Then imagine hot molten lava or magma emerging from below the crust to the surface. This magma will melt and bake all the rocks causing them change or metamorphose into a new type of rock.
This is how Lapis Lazuli is formed – a particular group of existing rocks and minerals heated by magma and cooled by time into this deep blue gemstone. The basic silicate material is combined with other minerals such as lazurite, calcite, sodalite and pyrite with the presence of sulfur creating the deep blue color. To be called Lapis Lazuli is needs to be at least 25% lazulite.
Generally Lapis Lazuli is untreated other than the cutting and polishing that goes into making it a gemstone. There have been experiments with heating Lapis Lazuli to improve the blue color but apparently it is just as likely to produce an unattractive green color as a lovely deep blue.
Lapis Lazuli can be dyed to enhance blue color or hide white calcite streaks but this can be quite easily detected in most cases.
If any gemstones sold by GemSelect receive any such treatment we will always disclose this information.
Lapis lazuli has been made into every conceivable type of jewelry for thousands of years but it has a rating of 5 - 6 on the Mohs hardness scale so some care should be taken when using it. In fact as it is made up of two or more different minerals the hardness of this gemstone can vary throughout – if it has an obvious white calcite streak this will be softer than the solid blue lazurite part of the stone.
It is marvelous for pendants and earrings but protective settings are recommended for rings and bracelets. This softness does mean it can be carved quite easily into interesting or odd shapes which are ideal for unique jewelry pieces.
- A work of Art
- Lapis Lazuli was used as a pigment for painters across Europe for centuries and some of the finest masterpieces used ultramarine (made with oil and powdered Lapis Lazuli) including Starry Night by Van Gogh, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer and Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian.
- Things are looking up
- Powdered Lapis Lazuli pigment was also used by Michelangelo to paint the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome.
- Even Pharaohs had a budget
- Tutankhamun's famous golden death mask uses real Lapis Lazuli for the eyes but fake Lapis lazuli for the bands on the head dress.
- When Peter Carl Faberge created his stunning egg sculptures for the Russian Czars he used Lapis Lazuli on many of his 58 designs. A recent sale at Christies saw one of the eggs sell for $18.5 million.
- Lapis Lazuli could be the world's oldest gemstone
- Stone age man may have used feathers, bones, teeth and shells as jewelry but the blue Lapis Lazuli may have been the first material to have been carved into jewelry.
- Lapis Lazuli is the traditional gemstone gift for the 9th wedding anniversary.
- Lapis Lazuli was a birthstone for December until it was replaced by Zircon and it is still an alternative for September in the UK.
- Dangerous work
- Ancient mining techniques persisted into quite modern times until easy access to dynamite finally put an end to 'fire-setting'. A raging fire would be lit near a rock wall of Lapis Lazuli which would then be doused with water. The sudden change in temperature would cause the rocks to shatter and the quickly retreating miners would return to pick up the broken pieces.
- An old Babylonian Prayer to the Gods of rain and sun
- "Oh Samas, lord of judgement, Oh Adad, Lord of prayer and divination,
- You, who sit on thrones of gold, who eat from tables of Lapis Lazuli . . "
Lapis lazuli is quite a soft gemstone at between 5 and 6 on the Mohs hardness scale so some care is needed when handling it. The first thing to mention is that Lapis Lazuli is quite porous so do not leave it standing in water for a long time and do not let anything other than water or the mildest soaps touch it if at all possible.
As with most gemstones, you should not use any household chemicals or solvents when caring for or cleaning your Lapis Lazuli gemstone pieces. Lapis Lazuli should not be exposed to prolonged periods of heat as it may cause permanent damage to the gemstone. We would not recommend using steam or ultra sonic cleaners.
Your gemstones should be stored inside a fabric-lined box or wrapped in a soft cloth and Lapis Lazuli should be kept away from other gemstones and jewelry to ensure it does not get scratched by other harder gemstones.
Obviously buying gemstones from a reputable dealer is the best approach but this is not always possible when you are out searching the net or scouring the stores for a great gemstone or a bargain!
This is not a complete guide on how to spot a real gemstone but I hope it helps.
Fake Lapis Lazuli does exist, sometimes as clearly marked dyed material for sale to be used in cheap costume jewelry however sometimes this material is offered as real Lapis lazuli. Most dyed material can be checked using a quick swab with a cotton bud dipped in acetone or nail polish remover – the swab will immediately turn blue.
If the swab test does not reveal anything, it could be that the dyed material has had a wax treatment too – if you are still suspicious then a hot point examination can reveal the wax.
An acid test will also work – a drop of hydrochloric acid as releases the sulfur within a real Lapis Lazuli and you will smell rotten eggs but these tests are getting more and more intrusive and we would not recommend trying any of them on a gemstone you do not already own.
Just looking at the gemstone can reveal a fake. If the color is too uniform or too bright or just 'fake looking' then be wary. Obvious painted on flecks of gold pyrite will indicate a fake. Plastic fakes will make a dull clink when tapped against your teeth and will warm in your hands very quickly.
Howlite and Jasper gemstones can be dyed to simulate Lapis Lazuli but Howlite is softer than a real gemstone and jasper is much harder than real Lapis Lazuli.
All in all, rather than go through all this palaver, we thoroughly recommend buying your Lapis Lazuli (and any other gesmtones)from a reputable and long standing gemstone dealer
At GemSelect, we stand by our gemstones as being as we describe them, any treatments are disclosed and our return policy means you can feel quite assured when ordering from us.
A gemstone that has accompanied an Egyptian Pharaoh on his journey into the afterlife or adorned the crown of a Sumerian Queen is surely a very special object indeed. You can imagine an ancient miner in the mountains of Pamir coming across a slab of deep blue Lapis Lazuli dappled with flecks of golden pyrite then seeing it echoed in the midnight skies with abundant stars above. It is no wonder this gemstone was seen as a gift from the Gods.
Using this wonderful gemstone as a piece of jewelry or incorporating it in your spiritual journey will allow this part of our mutual cultural heritage to continue growing and developing. If that is not a reason to buy one, the texture, weight and elegance of this natural beauty is sure to convince you.
Some gemstones show a distinct or dramatic change in color under different light sources. Look at a garnet under electric or artificial light and it could look red, take it outside into the sunlight and all of a sudden it is green! This remarkable effect only occurs in a few gemstones, Alexandrite, Garnet and some Sapphires being the most well known but does NOT occur in Lapis Lazuli.
Na6Ca2 Sodium calcium aluminum silicate
(Cubic) rare, dense aggregates
Lazur blue, violet, greenish-blue
5.00 to 6.00
2.50 to 3.00
Double Refraction or Birefringence:
Vitreous, greasy to dull
Strong: White, also orange, copper colored
- First Published: February-05-2020
- Last Updated: July-05-2020
- © 2005-2022 GemSelect.com all rights reserved. Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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