Lapis Lazuli Gemstone Information
Many people adore the look of the lapis lazuli gemstone. Not only does it regularly make appearances in jewelry, but it has also been used through the ages as sculpting material, pigment, and to create vibrant inlays. It’s incredibly popular thanks to its magnificent coloring.
But most people are only slightly familiar with this stunning stone. If you’re curious about the lapis lazuli gemstone, including its properties, history, and use, here’s everything you could possibly want to know.
Lapis Lazuli Properties
The lapis lazuli gemstone, also known simply as “lapis,” is actually a metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rocks are created in the presence of heat, pressure, and certain chemicals. The process occurs below the surface of the Earth, where the extreme conditions create the stones.
Being a metamorphic rock actually differentiates lapis lazuli significantly from many other gems. In most cases, what people classify as gemstones are minerals, not metamorphic rock.
When it comes to durability, lapis is a five on the Mohs hardness scale. That means it is relatively soft, which is one of the reasons it was popular for sculpting.
Lapis Lazuli Colors and Patterns
Overall, when people think of this stone, they picture blue lapis lazuli. In nature, blue stones are incredibly rare, which is one of the reasons they tend to catch people’s eyes.
The striking blue color occurs due to the presence of lazurite, a silicate mineral that’s part of the sodalite group that is blue in color. However, many lapis stones also have other colors present.
In some cases, you’ll see small metallic gold flecks, which are actually pyrite. Predominately blue stones with a few golden spots are actually the most prized composition of lapis lazuli, typically making those gemstones more expensive.
At times, you’ll also see white in a lapis. Typically, the white areas are made of calcite. Generally, the more white that is present in the stone, the less desirable it’s considered. When the hue is light enough, the stone is referred to as “denim lapis.”
Many people enjoy the mixed or lighter look of denim lapis. Since these aren’t as popular, it allows them to get an attractive stone for less than one of the bluer or more consistently colored versions.
It’s also possible to find pieces of lapis with other minerals mixed in, including dolomite, sodalite, and mica, just to name a few. However, the composition of the stone has to be at least 25 percent blue lazurite to earn the name lapis lazuli officially.
The History of Lapis Lazuli
Lapis has been popular for ages. There is evidence suggesting that the stone was initially mined as far back as 7,000 BC in portions of Afghanistan. Additionally, the stone has appeared at Neolithic dig sites in Pakistan and Iraq, as well, as well as Egyptian archeological sites.
Some scholars believe many of the references to “sapphire” during Biblical times were actually describing lapis lazuli. In fact, some modern translations use “lapis” instead of “sapphire” to reflect that possibility.
In most cases, lapis lazuli is an ornamental stone. It’s found on objects and in jewelry pieces, most commonly. Additionally, the gemstone was used as a pigment and even a cosmetic.
As a pigment, lapis is a key component in ultramarine, one that was incredibly popular with certain master painters. Ultramarine was used by Van Gogh to create The Starry Night and Johannes Vermeer to create Girl with a Pearl Earring, for example.
The color of ultramarine is incredibly vibrant, but the pigment is costly. Today, it can run $1,000 a pound or more, making it too expensive for many artists.
Where Lapis Lazuli is From
In general, lapis lazuli stone is found in areas where limestone or marble are present. The leading source in the world is Afghanistan, a country where the stone has been mined for thousands of years. However, that’s not the only home of the gemstone. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States also have deposits of lapis.
Lapis Lazuli Jewelry
Lapis jewelry is widely available and very popular. As mentioned above, blue stones are relatively rare. As a result, many people turn to lapis when they want a natural blue stone.
Typically, you won’t find cut lapis in jewelry. It isn’t translucent, so it doesn’t necessarily benefit from facets, which are usually used for light capturing, reflecting, and refracting.
Instead, lapis lazuli beads or cabochons are what you’ll see on the market. The surface polishes up to a nice sheen and also lets the color become the star of the show.
Lapis Lazuli Meaning
When it comes to the lapis stone meaning, it depends on the belief system. In some spiritual practices, the stone is said to focus on intellectual capabilities. For example, the third eye is said by some to be the lapis lazuli chakra, a position associated with wisdom, intuition, and the sixth sense. However, it may also be associated with the throat chakra, which focuses on communication and personal expression.
The lapis meaning can also include good luck or good fortune in some traditions. In others, the blue lapis meaning involves protection, stress reduction, and heightened self-awareness.
Some spiritual practices believe that there are lapis lazuli healing properties. For example, certain groups believe it is mentally soothing, while others think it benefits the immune system or improves other specific ailments.
It’s important to note that there is no proven medical or health benefit of wearing or holding any stone. Gemstones of any kind shouldn’t be considered a treatment or cure for any illness, condition, or symptom. However, in most cases, holding or wearing lapis lazuli poses no risk, so doing so won’t cause harm in the majority of situations.
Stones Similar to Lapis Lazuli
There are a few stones that have a similar look to the blue lapis stone, but not many. Mainly, this is because blue gemstones are relatively rare.
Sodalite and lapis lazuli also have similar appearances. Since sodalite is a component of lapis lazuli, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the two stones have a lot in common visually.
Azurite is another stone that is commonly confused for lapis lazuli. The core coloring is highly similar, particularly when it is cut into a cabochon. However, azurite is frequently found with malachite, so the presence of green sections typically indicates it isn’t lapis.
If you’re open to manufactured stones, blue goldstone may resemble lapis lazuli. It has a strong blue coloring and metallic flecks, usually comprised of copper. In some cases, blue goldstone is a suitable, low-cost alternative for people who want a consistent blue stone with some shimmer.