Lapis Lazuli

Lapis beads from Afghanistan

Now that color is so important in both the fashion and the jewelry world and because blue has always been a favorite color for so many, a very old gemstone is making resurgence.  With a documented history that stretches back more than 6,000 years, lapis continues to work its magic today, enticing designers with its fascinating shade of blue twinkling with tiny inclusions of pyrite or “fool’s gold” - like a night sky. The stone is soft (5-6 on Moh’s hardness scale) and opaque (cut into cabochon and flat stones, or beads for jewelry).  The gemstone’s price depends on the stone’s beauty and color intensity with the most valuable color being a deep intense blue with finely distributed crystal resembling glitter from the golden pyrite.  Irregular veining, pronounced patches or spotty patterning of either the pyrite or white calcite diminishes the value of lapis.

As has been the case for many thousands of years, the best rough stones still come from the Hindukush mountains of Afghanistan, and is still mined in the most primitive of conditions -carted off down the steep mountain on the backs of donkeys.  Lapis is also mined in Russia and Chile where supplies are typically lower quality with many white spots of calcite.

In folklore, Lapis Lazuli was believed to give good judgment and insight, enhance wisdom, and stimulate inner vision.  It is regarded by many as the stone of truth and friendship. In the past, some of its uses were, after pounding it into a powder, mixing it as bright blue paint. During the Middle Ages, a pinch of lapis was considered to be a remedy against insomnia, recurring fever, and disorders of the throat, lungs and immune system.

Gentle care should be taken of your lapis jewelry as it is very sensitive to pressure and high temperatures, hot baths, over-exposure to sunlight, acids or alkalies.  Do not clean in an ultrasonic machine or with steam. Instead clean in cool water with mild soap as necessary drying on a soft cloth.  Lapis is often surface sealed with a colorless wax or synthetic resin to make it more durable and, as long as no color is added (sometimes done to improve appearance of lower quality lapis), this process does not affect the value of the gemstone.

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5121 Center Street, Suite 103
Williamsburg, VA  23188
(757) 229-7333