History of Lapis Lazuli Gemstones
Lapis Lazuli is a semi-precious stone that derived its name from the Latin terms lapis, which means stone. And lazuli is from a Medieval form of Latin lazulum, derived from the Persian lajward, from where lapis lazuli usued to be mined. The English word azure and the Portuguese term azul are cognates. Taken literally, lapis lazuli means “stone of azure.”
Lapis has been mined in Afghanistan for more than 6,000 years, and can be found in same ancient Egyptian burial sites: such as the burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and even from Mauritiana. Badakhshan a province within Afghanistan, where lapis lazuli has been mined, was the source of lapis for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations as well as the later Greek and Roman; during the height of the Indus valley civilization about 2000 BC, the Harappan colony now known as Shortugai was established near the lapis mines.
In ancient Egypt, lapis lazuli was used for amulets such as scarabs; Babylonians and the Assyrians also used the stone for seals. Powdered lapis was even used by Cleopatra herself as eye shadow.
Ancient Romans believed that lapis was an aphrodisiac and was thought in the Middle Ages to keep the limbs healthy and free the soul from error, envy, and fear. It was also believed to contain medicinal properties. Lapis was ground down, mixed with milk, and applied as a dressing for boils and ulcers.
Recent uses for lapis include jewelry, mosaics, carvings, ornaments, boxes, and vases. It has also been used for cladding the walls and columns of palaces and churches. It was also ground and processed to make the pigment ultramarine for tempera paint and more rarely oil paint.
Physical Properties of Lapis Lazuli Gemstones
Lapis, as it is commonly called, is a rock not a mineral because it is made up of various other minerals. To be a mineral it can only have one constituent. The main component of lapis lazuli is lazurite, a mineral composed of sodium, aluminum, silicon, oxygen, sulfur, and chloride. Lapis Lazuli usually occurs in crystalline marble as a result of contact metamorphism. Lapis has been prized since ancient times due to its intense blue color.