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Lapis Lazuli Gemstone

Updated on June 28, 2010

Lapis Lazuli Gemstone

lapis lazuli stone
lapis lazuli stone

History of Lapis Lazuli

The name lapis lazuli comes from Latin word ‘Lauzulus’ meaning blue stone. The name may also have an early influence from the Arabic word ‘Lazaward’ and the Persian word ‘Lazhuward’ both of which mean blue. This beautiful deep blue gemstone has been known as early as the 3100 B.C. by the Egyptians and use it in inlay work, as beads and in lapis pendants. It was Egyptians favorite stone for amulets and ornaments. It was also used by the Babylonians and Assyrians for seals. Renaissance painters used it to make an expensive and natural ‘ultramarine’ blue color that was used in painting, as well as to give brightness and stability to the pictures. This pigment of ultramarine was in use until the 19th century when people found another method to produce this color. Lapis lazuli shares with turquoise gemstone the distinction of being amon the most prized of all gemstones of earlier civilizations.

Lapis Lazuli Chemical Composition

Lapis lazuli (or sometimes abbreviated to lapis) is considered as a rock rather than a mineral because it contains a number of minerals like hauynite, lazurite, noselite, sodalite. It also has varying amounts of pyrite and white calcite meneral in a vein-like pattern. The hardness of the stone is 5.5 according to Mohs scale, its specific gravity ranges around 2.7 to 2.9 and the refractive index is 1.50. The inclusions found in the lapis lazuli are generally made of pyrite, calcite and iron. The presence of golden streaks in lapis lazuli which is due to the brilliant golden pyrite will increase its value. In general, the price of lapis lazuli can range from about 2$ to $50 per gram.

Lapis Lazuli Stone

Lapis Lazuli Gemstone
Lapis Lazuli Gemstone

Lapis Lazuli Color and Treatments

Various treatments which can be carried out on this gem are waxing oiling, dying and plastic impregnation that gives it a polished look. Among all of these, dying is the most common treatment. The color can be temporarily enhanced by dying but the color can come off when the stone is rubbed with a nail polish remover. Waxing and oiling treatments of lapis can deteriorate when it is exposed to sunlight or heat. Since the practise of getting the deep blue hue is fairly common, before you are making the purchase, it is always advisable to get the gem tested from reputed gemological laboratory.

The lapis lazuli is found in various colors like greenish, blue and purple blue. The most valuable color is the intense-blue without white sodalite or calcite crystals in it. An important help to identify as whether the stone is genuine or not is the patches of pyrite (which will not detract from its value). Lapis takes an excellent polish and it can be made into jewelry, carvings, boxes, ornaments, vases and mosaics. Beads of lapis lazuli are often stringed together and worn as a bead necklace. In architecture it has ben used for cladding the columns and walls of churches and palaces. Lapis lazuli is abundantly available and you can find it in large sizes. Usually big carvings are not sold in the market by weight but by its quality and size of work done.

Lapis Lazuli Healing Properties

Natural lapis was also used as grounded powder in cosmetics for eye shadow and as medicines. In Rome it was considered a powerful aphrodisiac. Some Greeks used lapis lazuli as an antidote to poisonous snakebites. Buddhists believed this gem brought peace of mind and tranqulity. Lapis lazuli was however used as a cure for fever in the middle ages. Lapis lazuli is one of the oldest spiritual stones known, and in ancient Egypt it was used mainly by royalty and priests. Many believe that the Biblical sapphire was actually lapis lazuli.

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