Ranging in colors from bright blues through to royal blues and midnight blues, this mystical looking gem stone has been used in jewelry and other ornaments for many thousands of years. There is evidence that it was used in prehistoric times and archeological digs Greece and Egypt have found many artifacts where this gemstone was used. One of the most famous uses of lapis lazuli is found in King Tutanhamun’s golden mask.
The name Lapis Lazuli, is derived from the Arabian word “Azul” for blue and “Lapis” which is Latin for stone. It is one of the most valuable semi opaque stones and has a glossy luster.
Lapis Lazuli comprises a number of different minerals that include lazurite and sodalite that give the stone its blue coloring, plus other minerals such as calcite, huaynite, mica, noselite and pyrite. The presence of pyrite in small speckled quantities can create glittering inclusions that, against the deep blue of a Lapis Lazuli stone, can create the impression of a starlit sky. However, too much pyrite can lead to the stone developing a dull green hue.
The most sought after Lapis Lazuli has an evenly distributed deep blue color, without any traces of calcite that can create white veining and de-value the stone. Conversely, the presence of small amounts of well distributed pyrite can add sparkle and enhance the beauty – and as a result, add to the value of the gemstone.
Afghanistan produces the best quality deep blue Lapis Lazuli although lesser quality stones, that have paler blue or gray colors can be found in Chile and Russia. The gemstone has also been found in Canada, the USA and Pakistan.
Treatments to enhance the color and luster of Lapis Lazuli include the dyeing and the application of oil and wax. There is also some evidence that inferior Lapis Lazuli is sometimes crushed and reconstituted again in order to create a pure deep blue stone. Stones displaying a distribution of sparkling pyrite or other inclusions are unlikely to have been reconstituted.
Because of its softness and only scores around 5-6 on the Mohs scale of hardness, Lapis Lazuli needs to be treated carefully to avoid scratches and other damage. It is also quite porous and rings should be removed prior to undertaking housework or any other activity where it may come into contact with harsh detergents or other chemicals.
However, for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to either find or afford a rare garnet, there are still many delightful colored garnets to choose from – either as a single gemstone ring or paired with others.