Lazurite is known by several different names in the gem world and is widely known as lapis lazuli or lapis or, in ancient times, blue rock. This stone should never be confused with lazulite valued as a semiprecious gemstone for many thousands of years, this stone is prized for its deep blue, almost azure color. This is a soft stone so care must be taken when wearing or cleaning jewelry pieces. Gem cutters are not very enthusiastic about cutting raw lapis since it emits a very unpleasant sulfur smell much like that of rotten eggs. Lapis is most often found in varying shades of blue to azure and occasionally yellow or translucent stones can be seen. Lapis has been part of ancient royalty and is unique in its color and alternate uses.
With a history dating over six thousands of years, this stone dates back to ancient kingdoms of Babylonia and Persia. The brilliant deep blue color was very often associated by ancient cultures with the blue of the heavens. It was very common in ancient times, right through to the early eighteenth century to ground less desirable stones into a fine powder to be used as pigments for paints and plasters. Many famous art pieces of the Renaissance period employed ultramarine pigments including paintings and frescos. The substance created by the grinding process was referred to ultramarine which was able to be manufactured synthetically since the mid eighteen hundreds. The presence of contaminant minerals such as pyrite can be seen as gold flecks in the stone and these are less desirable specimens. The absence of discolorations can add to the appearance and value of the stones. Lapis can be found in California, Chile and Siberia and the best quality stones are said to come from Afghanistan.
Lazurite or lapis share recognition with its blue cousin the sapphire as the birthstone for the month of September and is associated with the astrological birth sign of Sagittarius.
New Age Beliefs and Powers Through The Ages
The ancient history of lapis has resulted in a wealth of mythology and popular folklore. Many of the ancients believed that powers of persuasion and focus of energy was granted to teachers possessing the stone. The ancient Egyptians are thought have used lapis as part of certain religious rites. The New Age community has ascribed certain healing and metaphysical properties to lapis including the ability to ward off depression and relieving aches and pains. Believed to promote higher levels of spirituality, the stone has gained a reputation for being very helpful during the practice of meditation.
Artificial Forms of Enhancement
There are no known methods of enhancing the color or appearance of this stone.
The stones are most often found in shades of blue, yellow or colorless.
General Scientific Information
The chemical name (Na,CA)8(AlSiO4)6(SO4,S,Cl)2 referred to as Sodium Calcium Aluminum Silicate Sulfur Sulfate.
Hardness measures 5.0 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale – the Mohs scale measures the hardness of metals, minerals, gemstones and crystals on a scale of 1 to 10. For example the hardness properties of most quartz crystals fall around 7 on the scale, as does steel and titanium. Diamond is the hardest known substance on the Mohs scale coming in at a hard 10. To most consumers hardness generally reflects the stones able to resist scratches and cracks.
There is no cleavage found in lapis lazuli.
The index of refraction is 1.5 and generally indicates the purity of the stone.
The specific gravity is ranges between 2.7 and 2.9.
The crystalline system is isometric.