The Meaning and Properties Of The Lapis Lazuli Crystal And Uses In Jewlery

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Overview: Lapis Lazuli Stone


Lapis lazuli has been in use since ancient times and is still popular today. The gemstone has been prized for its blue, bright color and utilized for inlay and intarsia, in addition to pigments for paintings and cosmetics. Its eye appeal and contrast are irresistible. These days, jewelry is its main use.


Value


The gem’s value can be exclusively determined by its color. An intense, deep blue, along with violet tones, would be at its apex. Uniform, fine-grained specimens may attain a highly polished, smooth surface that isn’t seen in lower grades.


Calcite inclusions pretty much always lower its value, yet pyrite inclusions will enhance it in the minds of many jewelry enthusiasts and collectors. Even though enthusiasts might argue over how much pyrite is perfect in this stone, the majority would concur that the less calcite there is, the better the stone. Calcite may be seen as patches or streaks inside the darker blue or may predominate inside the mix, providing the rock a lighter blue shade, in general.


In addition, faceting artistry and polish quality affect its value.


Composition


Usually, lapis lazuli is a combination of three minerals: pyrite (iron sulfide that has a white-gold color), calcite (white-colored calcium-carbonate), as well as lazurite (complex blue mineral).

Color


It gets its shade from the sulfur inside the mineral lazurite. (Crystalline lazurite is very rare. Generally, it forms a part of the lapis rock).


The highest quality gemstones have an even color and a purplish-blue to blue shade, with a tone of 75% to 85%. Bluer lapis is usually in the lighter range, and gemstones that have purple hues are normally in the darker range. Prices dip quickly for gemstones darker than 90 percent, which appear drab and dark.


Clarity


Its stones are opaque; however, the majority of stones are included with calcite, pyrite, or both. Well-distributed, small pyrite inclusions may appear like stars that are strewn across the evening sky. Consumers in America greatly covet the look. But gem graders classify the inclusions as clarity flaws. Larger inclusions will mask the gorgeous blue of the gemstone.


Calcite inclusions aren’t desirable and might occur either as streaks of grey or white throughout the gemstone or as tiny dust particles. Little calcite inclusions usually grey the gemstone, as is common for Chilean stones.


Gemstone Sizes


Afghanistan has generated rough blocks of lapis that are up to 100 kilograms with fine color. A single Chilean material block, discovered inside a Peruvian grave, was 24-inches by 12-inches by 8-inches in size. A 40.5 centimeters tall vase consisting of fine blue material is within the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy.

Torre dell'Orologio lapis lazuli Clock Tower in Venice, Italy

Torre dell'Orologio Lapis Lazuli Clock Tower in Venice, Italy

 

Sources


Only Pakistan and Afghanistan yield the finest lapis lazuli in commercially intriguing quantities. The material in Colorado is very fine; however, it has limited availability.


    • Mogok, Myanmar; Labrador Canada; Italy
  • Chilean Andes: color inferior to Afghan material, blue and gray mix
    • Studyanka River, Mongolia: light shade of blue, with pyrite.
    • California: bluish gray with spots of white.
    • Colorado: stringers in dark color, limestone, with a lot of pyrite, from Italian Mountain inside the western region of Colorado.
    • Pakistan: deep, solid blue color without white calcite spots and a sprinkle of yellow, brassy pyrite.
    • Badakshan, Afghanistan: amongst the oldest mines operating worldwide (about 7,000 years). The stone occurs in crystals in white matrix and in large blocks. This is the source of the finest lapis in the world.

    Care


    The stone has a hardness of 5 to 6, so it needs care as a jewelry gemstone.  But, you will find it typically set in bracelets and rings. Use a protective setting for the jewelry pieces, and make sure to reserve them for occasional wear. Lapis stones, even with protective care, in bracelets or rings, might need occasional re-polishing. Alternatively, it is possible to wear brooches, earrings, pendants, and lapel or tie pins on a daily basis without any concern.


    To clean the gemstone, use mild soap and a soft brush. Do not use chemical solvents or mechanical cleaning, like ultrasonic or steam systems.


    Simulants and Synthetics


    Lapis lazuli has been synthesized successfully by Carroll Chatham in the U.S. and Pierre Gilson in Paris, France. A lot of large jewelry supply houses provide the synthetic variant, without or with pyrite.


    Even though those synthetics are modern inventions, its imitations or simulants go back as far as the Ancient Egyptian era. Archeologists have found artifacts that have glass backed with blue ceramic materials and blue paint in lieu of the natural gemstone. Even the death mask of King Tut (1332 to 1323 BCE) which includes true inlay for the eyes, contains blue-painted glass bands inside the headdress or nemes. Those imitations testify to the ancient demand for this stone.


    Modern-day simulants include glass, enamel, plastic, and various dyed gems like jasper and howlite, which are misleadingly called “Swiss lapis.”


    The only natural stone readily available in sufficient sizes that have a deep enough blue to be a true lapis simulant is sodalite.


    Acid testing may be utilized to determine if a specimen is natural. One drop of HCI (hydrochloric acid) on the stone releases H2S gas, the smell of a rotten egg.


    Streak testing a natural specimen ought to leave a streak of light blue.


    Streak and acid testing are both destructive tests and only should be done by a professional gemologist.


    Uses 


    The stone takes excellent polish and may be made into carvings, jewelry, mosaics, boxes, small statues, vases, and ornaments. Finishing buildings and interior items may also be constructed using lapis.


    Comments


    Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman natural historian, referred to the stone as “the fragment of the starry firmament,” admiring its colors, a deep blue that had twinkling gold bits. Lapis lazuli (simply called lapis) is really a rock that is composed of nosean, sodalite, haüyne, and lazurite, all members of the sodalite family of minerals. (Lazurite on its own, might be considered a haüyne rich in sulfur).


    The lapis’ colors range from a grayish, medium blue to deep indigo to royal, intense blue with various amounts of brassy and white gold from pyrite and calcite inclusions. A lot of purists want specimens that are almost completely lazurite, a uniform and deep blue, yet most are looking for a piece that has a moderate to generous amount of pyrite of a golden color.

     

    Art and History 


    Archeologists have discovered lapis carvings, jewelry, and beads at a number of sites, some of which date back as far as 6,000 BCE.


    The use of the gem for jewelry and art likely started in Afghanistan and then spread to the Middle East, Asia, the Roman world, and the Mediterranean. Many of the stones referred to as sapphirus or sapphire, “blue stone,” within the Latin-speaking realm of classical antiquity might actually have been pieces of lapis.


    Ancient Myths


    Legends surrounding lapis lazuli are among the oldest around the world. The myth of the Sumerian goddess of love, Inanna, and her return and descent from the underworld might date from as far back as 4,000 BCE. The Sumerian goddess entered the underworld and beared the insignias of her rank, which included a lapis rod and necklace.

     lapis lazuli necklace


    According to Scott Cunningham, author of Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, & Metal Magic, ‘in ancient Sumer, the gemstone has timeless associations with deities and royalty. People during that time believed it had the soul of the deity, who’d rejoice in its owner.’


    Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt favored the gemstone, and judges dressed in emblems of Maat, the truth goddess, designed of the stone.

    lapis lazuli ring and bracelet on egyption princess


    A lot of ancient civilizations prized the stone. To them, it reflected the high status of their rulers and had religious significance.


    Trends in Jewelry


    It isn’t surprising that a gemstone whose popularity extended around continents, as well as millennia, may reach new markets. Country-western and denim clothes have opened up a niche for what once was believed to be low-quality, essentially unsalable Chilean material. Now, cleverly dubbed “denim lapis” sells extremely well.


    Jewelers oftentimes set lapis in silver and develop modestly priced pieces. But there’s an increasing trend that emulates the artisans of earlier days and sets fine-quality gemstones in gold, which complements colored gems or diamonds.


    Lapis makes an excellent option for men’s jewelry, especially for use in watch dials, because of its blue, rich color (making it convenient to color coordinate). It takes an excellent polish, does not easily show wear, and is fairly tough.

     lapis lazuli  use in watch Watch Dial close up zoom


    Plus, its rich symbolism and history make it a highly sought-after jewelry option for those intrigued by the romance of stones.


    Birthstone guide


    Lapis Lazuli is a birthstone of Virgos. It’s a strongly regarded birthstone well-known for thousands of years. It’s a birthstone that is believed to realize hopes, gain favors, and attract friends.


    The birthstone of lapis takes its name from a couple of words – Arabic term ‘azul,’ meaning blue and Latin term ‘lapis,’ which means stone, and it’s a famous blue birthstone. It is possible to encounter various names for the gemstone, such as the Armenian stone, the azure gem, zemech lazarilli, lazurite, and lazurit.


    As aforementioned, major birthstone sources are Afghanistan, the Andes mountains Chile, and mines west of lake Baikal inside Russia. Also, there are large deposits of the stone within the Canadian arctic. The gem nowadays is fairly affordable; however, 18th-century pricing with the use of emerald as a measuring unit ranked ruby worth three emeralds, sapphire as two emeralds, and it costs as much as fifteen emeralds.


    A Roman Empire navy commander and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, wrote that it’s ‘sprinkled with bits of gold and is opaque’.  Because the gemstone blended the sun’s golden glitter and the blue of the heavens, it was emblematic of success within the old Jewish tradition. In earlier Christian times, the birthstone was regarded as the gemstone of the Virgin Mary and often was used in altars and selected as a gem in episcopal rings.


    The gem’s first known mentionings date back thousands of years B.C. and was oftentimes called sapphire or sapir. As a matter of fact, these two gemstones were frequently confused with one another in the old scripts. It was highly valued in Babylon and Egypt. According to an old Assyrian hymn honoring the moon-god Sin, ‘Strong bull, great of horns, ideal in form, with a long beard, bright as the lapis-lazuli.’

     lapis lazuli  stone unfinished


    Priests in Egypt dressed in lapis amulets because they were considered a heavenly emblem. Cyprus’ Bishop of Constantia, Epiphanius, quoted ancient sources that Moses’ Tables of the Law were written on two lapis blocks, oftentimes considered as the 11th stone of the breastplate. Writings of ancient China claim that the stone was offered to the universe’s lords by high priests and kings. Romans and Greeks also considered the stone a heavenly gem. For them, it was a symbol of personal bravery and was regarded as a gemstone of real friendship.


    As far back as 1500 years before Jesus Christ, people placed the birthstone on the neck of children in order to reduce fever. Also, the stone was utilized to cure blood disorders, melancholia, and eye troubles. It was one of the favorite stones of alchemists. The stone was believed to draw all evil out and dissipate into the air.


    If it was someone’s birthstone, in particular, it was believed to be a powerful talisman that attracted friends, gained favors, and realized hopes.

     lapis lazuli  polished stone


    Using lapis, jewelers may produce and design elegant pieces worn by famous celebrities such as Blake Lively, Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.




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