Though mined from deep beneath the earth, the stunning blue tones of lapis lazuli speak romantically of both sea and sky. Once known as “blue gold,” this azure stone has been prized for its beauty, pigmentation, and power for over five-thousand years. Its scarcity, coupled with its proud history and noble color, make lapis lazuli jewelry a highly valued commodity to clients worldwide.
Lapis lazuli, to the common collector, offers a high degree of aesthetic beauty, but for the dedicated aficionado, the stone tells a story stretching back through the ages. Archaeologists have found evidence of lapis lazuli’s popularity among the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Greece. In Rome, it was believed that the stone was a powerful aphrodisiac. In Egypt and Babylonia, lapis lazuli was thought a cure for melancholy, and high priests often wore the stone around their necks engraved with an image of the goddess of truth. After Alexander the Great spread his conquest across the Middle East, he brought countless signet rings, scarabs, and figures wrought from the lapis stone back to Europe where they were called “ultramarinum,” which means “beyond the sea.”
For millennia, mankind has praised the power of the stone not just for its medicinal properties, but also for its connection to purity, mental health, luck, and nobility. Lapis lazuli is associated with self-confidence, openness, and inner tranquility, yet while the lapis stone is often deemed a beacon of friendship and truth, it was also immeasurably vital to artists throughout history as the primary means to produce ultramarine pigmentation. Ground up into powder and mixed together with binding agents, the stone was used to create the vivid watercolors and oil-paints used by the Old Masters of the Renaissance.
The gemstone itself is considered semiprecious, and its color comes from a combination of fourteen minerals. While the rock is mostly composed of lazurite—from which it gains the iconic azure coloring—the presence of calcite is responsible for ivory streaking, and the golden hues are a result of pyrite.
Today, lapis lazuli is mined primarily in Chile and Afghanistan, yet with growing rarity. The deposits within the Chilean Andes are widely appreciated for their deeper blue coloring, and with the high yield of lapis stone from within the Flor de los Andes mine seated nearly 3,600 meters above sea level, Chile has become the most respected source of lapis lazuli in the western world.
This blog serves as a record for all aficionados of the azure stone who praise it for its mesmerizing beauty, rich history, and fascinating properties.