Lapis Lazuli, or Lapis in short, is a semi-precious gemstone which is the most important gem form of Lazurite. As a result of contact metamorphism, its formation usually occurs in crystalline marble, so it is technically categorized as a rock rather than as a mineral. It derives its name from the Latin word ‘Lapiz’ meaning ‘rock’ and the Medieval Latin word ‘Lazulum’ meaning ‘sky’. The most well-known specimens come from Afghanistan & Pakistan, but a significant amount of these rocks are also mined in Russia and Chile along with some smaller quantities produced in Italy, Mongolia, US, and Canada.
Lapis is highly valued for its deep blue color, but its hue, tint and saturation may vary a little depending upon the minerals present in it. The finest stones come in an evenly distributed color which has no visible deposits of calcite, although a moderate amount of sparkling specks of Pyrite are welcomed as these enhance the gemstone’s beauty. These opaque stones can vary from being dull to vitreous in luster. It is advised to take proper care of Lapis as it is sensitive and relatively soft, and may chip, crack, or bear scratches upon rough usage. They are slightly porous, so the gemstones with lighter hue may be dyed a more vivid blue as deeper colored stones are the most desired.
Lapis Lazuli is a stone of royalty, and may be the source of the color called ‘Royal Blue’. The ornaments of Egyptian rulers were inlaid with these stones, and in Persia it was regarded as a protection from the evil eye. It is believed that Lapis is capable of counteracting the spirits of darkness while procuring the spirits of light and wisdom. Buddhists believe it can resonate the vibration of truth and enlightenment, bringing inner peace and positivity.
Lapis has been prized since antiquity and throughout many generations for its intense color. Besides jewelry, it has a history of being used as a carving material and in ornamental objects. It was also ground and processed to be used as a pigment for oil painting (see Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665) during the Renaissance era! Despite its low price, today Lapis is being cut into cabochons, polished and used by high-end designers for both men and women’s jewelry. Browse our selection of Lapis gemstone beads perfect for your next jewelry project.