Lapis Lazuli – a sacred stone

lapis lazuli crystals

The story of human use of lapis stone goes back some 6,500 years.

Ancient civilisations valued this stone for its special, vivid colour, which still captures the eye of lovers of beauty today.

Historians believe that many references to the word sapphire in ancient writings actually refer to lapis, the two being equally prized and sought after, and the word “sapphirus” meaning blue in Latin.

Although the main purpose of its use is to make spectacular jewelry, other uses have been found for this stone.

Lapis stone and its golden insertions

Its deep blue hue, adorned with gold and silver iridescence, has made lapis a staple in the art world over the years, serving as a material for various sculptures and more.

Lapis lazuli stone is also the basis for the ultramarine blue pigment used in famous paintings, murals, frescoes and various art objects.

This use became very popular in the Renaissance era, and the pigment was obtained by finely grinding the spectacular stone.

Due to the high cost involved in this procedure, most artists preferred to keep the shade for religious works, and the pigment provided by lapis came to be considered sacred in Christian iconography.

Lapis lazuli pigment has also been used in other famous works, such as Hugo van der Goes’ Death of a Virgin, Michelangelo’s The Holy Family with Saint John, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Lapis: origins and legends

The main mining area of lapis is also considered the oldest commercial source of semi-precious stones, namely the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan . This mountainous area is home to the same mine, which has been in use since 700 BC and was known as Bactria.

Other important sources of extraction are located in Chile and Russia, specifically in Siberia, Lake Baikal.

It can also be found in smaller quantities in Angola, Canada, the United States (Colorado), Pakistan, Italy and Myanmar.

The name lapis comes from the Persian word ‘lazhward’, which means blue stone.

The legends surrounding the lapis stone are among the oldest in the world. They include the myth of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, war and wisdom. She is said to have descended into hell after her sister, the protector of the underworld. To prepare for this arduous, difficult journey, Inanna decorated her body with symbols of power, including numerous jewels and amulets made of lapis lazuli.

In ancient Egypt, pharaohs loved lapis stone, from which they made various amulets or even sculptures dedicated to the gods. Judges also wore the emblem of Maat, the goddess of truth, carved entirely from this stone.

Lapis lazuli crystals were used to decorate the tombs of kings in Egypt, for example, King Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus is said to have been surrounded by this stone to guide him in the afterlife.

Technical characteristics of lapis

Lapis lazuli is a semi-precious stone formed by the aggregation of different minerals such as lazurite, calcite and pyrite. Sometimes diopside, amphibole, feldspar and mica can also be found.

To be classified as lapis, a stone must contain at least 25% lazurite.

Lazurite is responsible for the distinctive blue hue of the lapis stone, so the higher the concentration of lazurite, the more intense the colour.

Calcite is often the second most abundant mineral found in lapis and is responsible for the silvery-white parts.

Pyrite, although present in a smaller proportion, has a strong visual impact, providing the golden iridescence of the stone in the form of small dots or even bands.

Depending on the proportions of these three main minerals, lapis can have different appearances, from uniform blue, devoid of iridescence, to a shade dominated by pyrite and calcite.

Although most people associate lapis stone with deep, dark blue, there may be cases where its colour is a violet, royal or even lighter blue.

However, the lighter colour variations are considered to be of lower quality and their price drops.

There are cases where even a greenish-blue hue may appear when pyrite is present in a greater quantity than normal.

Variety: Lazurite
Sensitivity to heat: No
Chemical formula: (Na, Ca)8(Al, Si)12O24(S, SO4)
Colors: Dark blue, royal blue, blue-violet, light blue, blue-green
Mohs hardness: 5-6
Crystal Structure: Dodecahedral
Refractive index: 1.50-1.55
Gloss: No
Transparency: Opaque

Energetic and spiritual properties

In addition to the magical beauty of lapis stone, it also possesses special properties, such as banishing melancholy, indifference and sadness.

Thus, lapis has over time been called a wisdom stone, which helps to know oneself and one’s own strengths through the close connection it has with the subconscious of the person who possesses it.

In ancient times, lapis was considered the stone of the gods, and the Egyptians believed that through it they could communicate with the gods.

In India, the stone was also used to make objects for rituals.

In ancient times, lapis was given as a sign of friendship and devotion, and was a symbol of sincerity and generosity.

Through the pyrite that provides the golden iridescence, lapis is connected with solar energy, managing to balance the third eye chakra. When these energy centers are in harmony, personal desires are easier to materialize because of the authenticity and harmony offered.

As in ancient times, lapis lazuli is also used today to achieve a higher spiritual state, closer to cosmic energy.

The healing properties of lazuli lazuli are especially beneficial when big changes occur in a person’s life or when important decisions have to be made.

The zodiac signs associated with lapis are Taurus, Sagittarius, Libra and Capricorn, and the use of the stone by these natives can attract prosperity and success, with changes for the better coming more easily to them.

Lapis stone care tips

Given lapis’ low hardness of 5-6 on the Mohs scale, it requires extra care when it comes to care and cleaning.

It is recommended to keep jewellery in special cases to protect it from hard surfaces that could scratch or damage it.

As for lapis rings and bracelets, it is not recommended to wear them every day because, unlike pendants, earrings or brooches, there is a higher risk of them coming into contact with different surfaces or harmful substances.

Both bumping and mechanical or chemical cleaning methods should be avoided in any form.

Only a fine brush with a little water and a mild soap is recommended for cleaning this stone.