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.