Lapis Lazuli, or lapis, is one of the oldest spiritual stones known to mankind. It has been used by healers, priests, royalty, and elites for power, wisdom, and to achieve the inner vision. It is also used for calmness, tranquility, stress relief, and serenity.
It is a blue metamorphic rock used as a gemstone, sculpturing material, pigments, and ornament material. It is one of the oldest and most valuable rocks known to mankind. The most interesting thing about lapis lazuli is that it is not a mineral like many other gemstones. It is a rock with multiple minerals. Its blue color is due to lazurite (a blue silicate mineral of the sodalite group).
A rock must have a distinctive blue color and at least 25% lazurite to be called lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli specimens mostly contain calcite, pyrite, wollastonite, afghanite, mica, sodalite, dolomite, and diopside. Some other minerals may also be present in the rocks.
Calcite is the second most abundant mineral in lapis lazuli after lazurite. Its presence is usually obvious with white layers, fractures, or mottling. Some lapis lazuli rocks have faded denim color because calcite is intermixed with lapis lazuli.
Pyrite is mostly found as tiny and irregularly spaced grains with contrasting gold colors. Some lapis lazuli specimens have pyrite in high concentrations that make distinct layers or patches on the rock.
Physical Properties of Lapis Lazuli
- Color: Blue, calcite, and pyrite often give white or gold grains, respectively.
- Streak: Blue
- Luster: Dull, polished before use
- Diaphaneity (ability to transmit light): Semi-translucent to opaque
- Cleavage: None
- Mohs Hardness: 3 – 5.5
- Specific gravity: 7 – 2.9
Where is Lapis Lazuli Found?
Lapis lazuli is usually found near igneous intrusion sites where marble or limestone has been changed (altered) by hydrothermal or contact metamorphism. Lazurite replaces a portion of the host rock and develops within certain bands or layers. Lapis lazuli is a rock that is not deposited but is formed after alterations.
The largest reserves are located in Afghanistan. Some mines in the country have been mined for thousands of years. However, political instability and terrorism have led to illegal trade and smuggling. Lapis Lazuli was mined in the early 7th millennium BC in the Sar-I Sand mines in the Badakshan Province in Afghanistan.
Russia, Pakistan, Canada, Chile, and Argentina are other leading lapis lazuli producers worldwide. Small amounts have been produced in California, Colorado, and Arizona.
Lapis Lazuli History
Lapis Lazuli artifacts have been found in Bhirrana, Indus Valley Civilization. These artifacts date back to 7570 BC. It has also been found in Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, Pakistan.
Lapis lazuli’s export began to Europe by the end of the middle ages. It was used by influential people, renaissance artists. It was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and the most expensive blue pigment.
Lapis Lazuli also appears in 3000 BC old Egyptian archeological sites, where it was used to make funeral masks and different artifacts.
Lapis lazuli is referred to as sapphire in Biblical terms. Many scholars also believe that some of the references to sapphire in the Bible are meant for lapis lazuli.
Lapis Lazuli Uses
Lapis lazuli is frequently used in jewelry and ornamental objects. Its use in sculptural stones has been limited in the present world due to better materials and its increasing cost. Most of its uses in the present world are now linked with its healing power. People who believe that stones and rocks hold power use them for healing and calm.
It is believed to be a powerful crystal for activating the higher mind and enhancing intellectual ability. Lapis lazuli is believed to have emotional and medical healing properties. It is said to be beneficial for the throat, larynx, and vocal cords and helps regulate the endocrine and thyroid glands.
Many people also say that its blue color has a distinct energy that is perfect for enhancing respect and compassion in the one wearing it.