Lapis Lazuli is one of those gemstones as have a long and romantic history. Lapis Lazuli is found at many places ion the world but the best form of it comes from a northern Afghanistan province known as Badakhshan and in this province lapis lazuli has been mined for more than 6000 years regularly.
Lapis lazuli was used as a gemstone material even many thousands years back. Assyrians and Babylonians used it for cylinder seals while ancient Egyptian used it for sacred slabs and amulets. According to many historians, pulverized lapis was used as an eye shadow by Cleopatra. It was also used in buildings and statues, beads, jewelry and many other things.
During the medieval period, powdered lapis was used in paintings for a blue hue known as ultramarine. But in the early 19th century the synthetic version of ultramarine was found and the use of lapis for paintings declined.
Lapis is considered a rock instead of a mineral as it is consisted of more than one mineral and usually 3 mineral are found in the lapis and they are lazurite, calcite and pyrite. In Lazurite, sulfur is excessively found and it gives a vivid blue color to the lapis. In Calcite there is calcium carbonate that gives a whitish streak to the Lapis. Iron sulfide is found in Pyrite that is of white-gold color and lends lapis a distinctive sleek and gloss.
The lapis which considered the most expensive one has a deep blue intense in it. It has smooth and fine grained surface and has least amount of calcite. Most often the collectors prefer to those lapis as has no calcite. The calcite gives a white streak or spots to the darker blue stone. The most preferable lapis for the collectors is one that includes high amounts of pyrite but this inclusion too must be within a limit and not in too large. Pyrite has the tendency to discolor lapis at the edges.
Lapis ranges 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale and that is why it’s a rather soft stone. It also has the tendency to absorb the different other chemicals from the surroundings and that’s why it must be protected from solvents and chemicals. Most of the times Lapis are cut as cabochons or beads and used I a number of ornamental objects. These days are also many other blue gemstones but the original one is lapis. Because of it’s unique blue color it is also called the stone of the sky.
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