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Learning Library

Lapis Lazuli Gemstone

Throughout its  long  lifetime  of  use, this  beautiful  blue  opaque  gemstone  has  been considered as a holystone, a friendship stone and  a stone of truth, encouraging the wearer to speak their mind and create harmonious relationships.

The name Lapis Lazuli comes from the Latin “Lapis”,  meaning  ‘stone’  and  the  Arabic “Azula”, meaning ‘blue’. Its formation occurred millions of years ago when lime metamorphosed into marble. The gem can often include whitish marble veins and small golden inclusions which  are caused by iron.

The value of the stone depends upon the depth and intensity of the colour, which can range from  a deep blue to lighter blue shades. Finely and  evenly distributed inclusions that shimmer and  resemble gold will also add to the price.

Historically,  this  stone  was  once  ground  and  used in paint by artists; it  provided a bright blue  colour that was extremely rare and hence was  always used sparingly. If this colour was found in  an artwork, it was a sign that the commissioning  family had spent a great deal of money on that  piece of art. An example is the Titian painting of  the ‘Greek Myth of Bacchus and Ariadne’ where  the vivid blue of Ariadne’s robe is truly striking. 

The  gemstone  had,  however,  been  popular  for  many  years  before  the  likes  of  Titian  and  Michelangelo  were  painting  with  it.    Archaeologists  have  uncovered  Lapis  Lazuli  in ancient graves in Egypt, Rome and Greece.  There is also evidence of it being traded in the Middle East as far back as the 4000BC, where  it  was  believed  to  have  been  excavated  in  Afghanistan. 

Romans believed that wearing the gem would  prevent  miscarriages  and  epilepsy,  as  well  as  acting  as  a  powerful  aphrodisiac.  They  also  named the gem “Sapphirus”, a name that later  became used to describe blue Corundum. 

When the stone is used for jewellery it is often  protected by coating it with a synthetic resin or  colourless wax, which is harmless to the stone  and simply improves its durability.

 

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A Lapis Lazuli Milano Charm bracelet.