A to Z 2022, Blog

L is for Lapis Lazuli – #atozchallenge

L is for Lapis Lazuli

Before I tell you all about lapis lazuli, I want to tell you a story about the importance of books on a young mind. Our grandson had a deep appreciation for minerals, rocks, and fossils. I credit Australian author Jennifer Rowe (writing children’s books under the pseudonym Emily Rodda) for this passion.

We have always encouraged our grandchildren to read. When we bought the first book in the Deltora series for our very young grandson, he fell in love with the adventure, the characters, gemstones, and minerals. Each letter in the word Deltora, stands for a gem, and the quest is about finding these gemstones – Diamond, Emerald, Lapis Lazuli, Topaz, Opal, Ruby, and Amethyst. We loved experiencing these books right along with him. Never underestimate the power and influence of a good book! Now back to lapis.

Lapis lazuli, or lapis, is a blue metamorphic rock rather than a mineral. It is an aggregate of lazurite, calcite, and pyrite. In order for a rock to be classified as lapis, it must exhibit the distinct blue color and contain at least 25% blue lazurite. Lapis is a fairly soft stone (hardness varies based on percentage of calcite present) but good quality lapis is 5-5.5 on the Mohs scale.

Throughout history, lapis has been used to create pigment – ultramarine blue to be specific. Lapis was first used as a pigment on 6th and 7th century AD cave drawings in Afghanistan. The artists of the Renaissance period considered this the most prized color – and it was the most expensive. Clients would often be required to pay a premium for paintings that required ultramarine. Most ultramarine blue used today does not contain lapis. Sometimes art restorers may use this original pigment when restoring famous works of art.. Vermeer used ultramarine blue in many of his paintings. One of the most remarkable works of art painted with this medium follows.

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato artist QS:P170,Q1345289, Sassoferrato – Jungfrun i bön, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Lapis is rated as medium risk on the IGS ( International Gem Society) toxicity table so care must be given when cutting or faceting the stone.

The Smithsonian has an exhibition “Objects of Wonder” on the second floor of the Natural History museum which will run until 2025. Included in the exhibition is this amazing piece of lapis weighing over 250 pounds.

Kplans, Lapis lazuli, Smithsonian Objects of Wonder, CC BY-SA 4.0

Most lapis is mined in Afghanistan. There has been a push to get lapis classified as a conflict mineral. It is estimated militant groups generate $20 million dollars or more annually by groups overrunning government mines  and seizing control of the assets. This 2016 article from the Associated Press gives an excellent overview of the problem and stresses the importance of only purchasing ethically sourced materials.

This is another piece of jewelry I made many years ago when I made my initial foray into jewelry design.

Sterling silver cuff bracelet
Sterling Silver Cuff with Lapis Lazuli Cabochon

22 thoughts on “L is for Lapis Lazuli – #atozchallenge”

  1. One of my favorites. I have a ring with it and earrings, both bought many years ago, pre-conflict I hope. In “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by Menotti, one of the kings sings of “One lapis lazuli against quartern fever,” though I don’t know what that is.


    1. Looks like it is a fever similar to malaria.
      “This is my box
      This is my box
      I never travel without my box.
      In the first drawer I keep my magic stones:
      One carnelian against all evil and envy,
      One moonstone to help you sleep,
      One red coral to heal your wounds,
      One lapis lazuli against quartern fever,
      One small jasper to help you find water,
      One small topaz to soothe your eyes,
      One red ruby to protect you from lightning!”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dan. That series of books really had an impact on him. He even dressed as one of the main characters for Halloween one year. His mom had fun making that happen. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.