Lapis Lazuli

by Charisma Bolivia
(Handmade in Bolivia - Ships from Fresno, California)

Mother Nature seems to have given blue a very special place of honor. As with fruit, vegetables, flowers and other expressions of nature, very few stones and minerals are naturally blue. Because of this, gems like lapis lazuli are highly valued.

Lapis lazuli is a semi-precious stone that gets its blue color from Lazurite and may also be found with cream-colored streaks of calcite, powdery gold flecks of pyrite, and other mineral streaks, mottles or inclusions as its mineral composition varies from one stone to another. However, the most valuable lapis lazuli is a rich, deep and uniform royal blue. In general, the purer the blue, the more expensive and valuable it will be, while the presence of white calcite veins or streaks decreases its value.

It's important to be an educated consumer. Certain rocks, such as Sodalite, Jasper, and Howlite, may be dyed to look like lapis lazuli. Swiss lapiz lazuli, for example, is actually dyed quartz. However, genuine lapis will almost always contain beautiful veins of gold-colored pyrite, as seen in the photo above. Lapis lazuli jewelry must be handled with great care. It is a moderately soft stone that breaks easily and should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.

Lapis lazuli itself is a rock, not a mineral because it is formed from a mixture of three minerals: lazurite, calcite and pyrite. Lazurite, the blue mineral which gives it its name, contains sodium, calcium, aluminosilicate and sulfur. A charge transfer between sulfur atoms causes it to have its blue color. Gemstone cutters must often cover their noses when cutting lapis lazuli. Highly knowledgeable cutters can tell how intense the blue color is without looking, and they know if the stone they are cutting is genuine lapis lazuli because it emits the unpleasant smell of sulfur as it is being ground. Lapis lazuli is produced during the metamorphic process when lime is transformed into marble.

The word "lapis" is Latin for "rock" and "lazulum" means "blue". The latter stems from the Farsi (Persian) word "lāzaward" meaning "heaven" or "sky". Likewise, "blue" in Spanish and Portuguese is "azul", a cognate of of the Latin "lazulum". When lapis lazuli was first exported to Europe, it was given the name "ultramarinum" meaning something that comes from "beyond the sea". The finest quality lapis lazuli comes from mines in Afghanistan. In South America, lapis lazuli is primarly produced near Ovalle, Chile.

Lapis lazuli has been used for adornment for thousands of years. The Egyptians, who believed lapis lazuli was the stone of the gods, ground it into a fine powder and used it as eyeshadow. They also made jewelry, furniture, and statues from it. It is one of the first gemstones ever used in jewelry. Some Mesopotamian and Asian cultures considered it a sacred stone with magical powers. Alexander the Great took thousands of lapis lazuli scarabs, signet rings, and figurines to Europe. Throughout the Middle East, lapis lazuli figurines and other objects have been unearthed at archeological digs. Even the biblical "Breastplate of Aaron" was adorned with lapis lazuli, according to the book of Exodus 28:15-30.

For hundreds of years lapis lazuli was also produced in Europe as a paint color known as ultramarine; however, only the highest quality lapiz lazuli could be used and the production process to achieve this color, known as the most expensive blue of all time, was so lengthy and expensive, that artists reserved their ultramarine paint only for detailing the robes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in their artwork. Today the color is produced synthetically and genuine lapiz lazuli ultramarine paint is used only for the restoration of highly valued, antique art.

Lapis lazuli has long been regarded as the stone of friendship and truth. Those who are superstitious believe it causes people to speak truthfully and be authentic, promoting harmony in relationships by making it easier for the wearer to express their genuine feelings and emotions. It was also believed to increase intellect, self-expression, compassion, and morality, and to help one overcome shyness and enhance their adventurous spirit. Others believe it relieves stress and insomnia. It is traditionally associated with the eye in connection with self-awareness and analysis. It is a December/Sagittarius birthstone.

The genuine Lapis Lazuli in Charisma Bolivia jewelry is imported into Bolivia from mines in the neighboring country of Chile.

Charisma Bolivia jewelry is handcrafted by artisans in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I then bring our collections back to the U.S.A. where I place them in our online store. All orders are mailed worldwide from California. I invite you to watch the slideshow below.

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