We’ve talked about a couple of topics concerning Lapis Lazuli, but what is lapis exactly? Where does it come from and how? What does lapis mean? I needed to talk about the Lapis Lazuli Meaning, Etymology and Composition of this magical stone. We have to start from the basics to fully understand this incredible stone like the ancient civilizations did.
Meaning – Etymology
Lapis is the Latin word for “stone” and lazuli comes from the Medieval Latin lazulum. This word comes from the Arabic lazaward, itself from the Persian lazavard, which is the name of the stone in Persian and also of a place where the Lapis Lazuli was mined.
It had such an impact in history that the English meaning of the word azure, French azur, Italian azzurro, Polish Iazur, Romanian azur and azuriu, Portuguese and Spanish azul, and Hungarian azur all came from the name and color of lapis lazuli.
Let’s talk a little about the chemical part (a little boring for my taste, but necessary) of lapis. I promise I will be quick. Lapis Lazuli is composed mostly by Lazurite (25% – 40%), Sodalite (blue), calcite (white) and pyrite (metallic yellow). This beautiful rocks formula is: (Na, Ca)8 (AISiO4)6 (S, SO4, Cl)1-2. The intense blue color is due to the presence of the trifulsur radical anion in the crystal. It also has a translucent and uneven fracture.
Lapis Lazuli is formed in crystalline marble due to an increase in temperature caused by the intrusion of magma into cooler rocks. This process is called contact metamorphism.
The best quality material contains less calcite and pyrite. You can also look for this quality in the same place I do, in Nammu.com.
Due to its sensitiveness to heat, acid and alkali, lapis is sometimes dyed or also coated with wax.
Its color goes from deep blue, purplish blue to greenish blue. When it has too much pyrite it may cause the stone to have a dull greenish tint.
Lapis Lazulis mayor deposits are found in the Sar-e-Sang mines in the kokcha River, Valley of Badakshan province in northeastern Afghanistan. People have been mining Sar-e-Sang mine for more than 6,000 years. As incredible as it sounds, the same mines are still being mined today. The access to the ancient mines which are actually caves high above a valley floor is very dangerous. Home to the most poisonous snake in the world, the Krait, the mountain terrain is treacherous. Scorpions are common. Whether Mujahidin rebels are at the mines to acquire the chunks of lapis to trade for arms in Germany, Kaffir bandits or other local tribesmen, the conclusion is the same. The message is to stay away or die.
Afghanistan has the most expensive and precious lapis. It has a rich uniform deep blue color and little to no white calcite veining and also a few flecks of glittering pyrite. The white calcite veining will diminish the value.
Lapis is also extracted in the Andes (near Ovalle Cordillera, Coquimbo, Chile). To the west of Lake Baikal in Siberia, at the Tultui Lazurite deposit and the Pamir Mountains near Khorog, in Russia. Lapis Lazuli is mined in smaller amounts in Angola; Argentina; Upper Burma near Morgok. In Pakistan; Baffin Island, Canada; Ariccia, Peperino and Monte Somma, Vesuvius, Italy, Ragavapooram, Masulipatum, India. It is also found in the United States in San Bernardino County California and in Gunnison County, Colorado.
Chilean lapis and Russian lapis are of a lesser quality. Lapis from these regions is a topic I will talk about later. The lapis mined from these regions have a strong whitish or gray color and like I told you before distinguished readers, this diminishes its value.
Caring for Lapis Lazuli
Lapis Lazuli is a porous rock so it should never come in contact with chemicals and solvents. Mild, warm and soapy water is the best way to clean this delicate stone.
It should always be protected from rubbing and scratching against harder stones and surfaces like other jewelry. This is due to lapis having a hardness of 5.0 to 5.5.
Remember, you should always have a special care with lapis. Keep in mind that it has been with us since the beginning of human history and be sure it will be here long after we’ve left. The beautiful and enigmatic stone, Lapis Lazuli! I hope dear readers you have enjoyed reading this post as I did writing it. ‘Till the next time.
Nammu Store is the best place to find beautiful Lapis Lazuli Jewelry.