Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dry Gulch Stone Journals: Lapis

Lapis rough ready for cutting and polishing.
Today on our semi-precious lore blog we’re discovering Lapis lazuli. This beautiful blue stone is rich in jewelry making history. Read on to learn all about this fabulous stone!

Lapis lazuli is a blue semi-precious stone known since ancient times. Its color ranges from pale blue to a royal, rich blue, and it often has white or black marbling. It also has metallic gold flecks. It was used by the Egyptians in jewelry, medicine and beauty as early as the 3,000s B.C., but has been mined as early as the 6,000s B.C. It’s been used throughout history as an artistic element, whether that be an entire room of Lapis walls and furniture during Russian empress Catherine the Great’s reign, or ground down to pigment and mixed into paint used by artists during the European Renaissance and Baroque eras. With a hardness of 5.5 on the Mohs scale, Lapis can be easily carved and always polishes to a lustrous shine. 

Virgin Mary (1640-1650) by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato. The blue paint in this work is Ultramarine, made by grinding Lapis lazuli into pigment and mixing it with binding agents.

Necklace with vulture pendant, from the tomb of Tutankhamun (c.1370-52 BC) New Kingdom (gold encrusted with lapis lazuli and carnelian). Amulet found in Tutankhamun's mummy suspended from his neck; representation of the vulture-goddess of Upper Egypt, Nekhbet; hieroglyphic sign for 'eternity' (shen) in the talons; discovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter.
Lapis rough in a white marble matrix from Afghanistan.
The name Lapis is Latin for stone and lazuli is an old Persian name for the blue rock. Lapis is made of mostly Lazurite, with flecks of color coming from iron Pyrite (gold color) and calcium Calcite (white color). Lazurite is made of sulfur and chloride, and almost exclusively appears in marble deposits in mountainous regions. There are small deposits of Lapis in the U.S., Russia and Chile, but most Lapis in the ancient and modern world comes from the Badakhshan province of northeastern Afghanistan.

With Lapis having such a rich and ancient history, it is bursting with metaphysical properties and legends. In Hindu and Buddhist religion it is the stone of the throat chakra, and aids in diseases of the throat and head. It brings energy to the body and opens up channels for that energy to flow. It also known for its calming effect, and lends clarity and patience to the wearer. In ancient Chinese traditions it is associated with water and brings serenity and wisdom. The word Lazuli also stems from the Arabic Lazaward, meaning heaven or sky. Lapis’ rich blue color with golden flecks is synonymous with a night sky.

Lapis can be graded according to richness of the blue color, for example “milky” or pale Lapis would be C Grade, and rich blue with Pyrite flecks would be A Grade. Depending on the artist’s intent and design, any of the grades would suffice. Wherever artists pick up Lapis to use in their designs, they can be sure that they have a true gem stuffed full of ancient history and legends in their hands.

Lapis lazuli cabachons polished and ready for use. Left is Grade C, middle is Grade B and right is Grade C.

Modern Lapis lazuli and vermeil gold ring by Delezhen.

Visit and see our collection of Lapis beads that are perfect for your designs!

Lapis lazuli bead strands from Dry Gulch


  1. Great article! I enjoyed learning about the properties and history of lapis.

    1. Thank you! So happy you enjoyed this little article. :)