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What is the history attached to the natural stone Lapis-Lazuli?

Bérangère Maniglier

Posted on August 29 2021

A multitude of archaeological sites indicate a very ancient use of lapis lazuli.
This dates back at least to the Neolithic era (7th millennium BC).
It is found in the form of beads, pendants, daggers, ornaments, and amulets.
For the ancient civilizations of the Near East and Egypt, lapis lazuli was the true gemstone, more prized than gold itself.
Although it is today relegated to the rank of semi-precious stone, it is no exaggeration to say, like Michèle Casanova, that the place it occupied then is that of the diamond in modern societies. .
Lapis lazuli was at the height of its value during the Bronze Age, in the middle of the 3rd millennium.
The Sumerians call it “the stone of stones” and place the palace of their “Great Goddess” under a mountain of lapis lazuli. Its ultramarine blue dotted with golden stars evokes the celestial vault and its supernatural powers.
There are superb lapis lazuli artifacts dating from this period, notably in the tombs of the Royal Cemetery of Ur in Iraq, in Mari and in the Royal Palace of Ebla in Syria.
It is the stone of elites, princes and gods.
It is then used to create a multitude of sumptuous objects (statuettes of animals, seals, amulets, etc.) and it is credited with powerful virtues.
She would be able to repel the forces of evil and she symbolizes perfection.
It is in this context that in the 3rd and 2nd millennium spreads in the Near East and in Egypt, the idea according to which “to possess a parcel of lapis lazuli, is to possess a parcel of the divine.“
Lapis lazuli is therefore the symbol of power, spiritual and political. It is both the “stone of the gods”, in particular of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and the “stone of the Pharaohs”. The latter shaped it in a thousand ways (amulets, scarabs, adornments…) and used it, among other things, to make the eyes of their statues and statuettes.
The Louvre Museum in Paris exhibits, for example, the statue of Ebih-II, whose pupils were encrusted with lapis lazuli. Tutankhamun's funerary mask is also encrusted with lapis lazuli, at the level of the eyebrows.
Among the Egyptians, lapis lazuli is used to get closer to the gods and to increase the intelligence of the great decision-makers, and in particular the pharaohs, who are even buried with their lapis jewelry to facilitate their spiritual elevation.
In the Middle Ages, the stone was renowned for its rejuvenating action on the body, it was said that it helped maintain healthy limbs.
Lapis lazuli was finely ground and mixed with milk, then a compress was dipped in this mixture, which was applied to boils, ulcers, acne or various skin problems.
From 1400, lapis lazuli was mainly used to make a pigment used in painting: ultramarine blue. It is this pigment that will, for example, be used to create the sky of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
It is extremely expensive but will remain in common use among painters until the 19th century, when it is replaced by a synthetic pigment.
Some very famous works of art such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer are provided with this ultramarine pigment.
Still available today, prices for this natural ultramarine or “real ultramarine” can reach €20,000 per kilo, depending on its quality and origin.
Nowadays, the main deposits of lapis lazuli stone are located in Afghanistan, the United States, Canada, Chile, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia.
The most abundant deposit is in Afghanistan, in a region particularly difficult to access at around 2,500 meters above sea level.
From Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, it takes four days to reach the Sar-e-Sang deposit. Moreover, the climatic conditions are so difficult that it is only possible to exploit this mine four months in the year.
Although complex and dangerous, this deposit is renowned for producing the finest lapis lazuli stones in the world.
It is from this deposit that our beautiful natural lapis lazuli stones come, mounted in silver steel or 925 silver pendants.
Recognized worldwide, Lapis Lazuli is also the national stone of Chile. It is also in this magnificent country of Latin America that we find the second most important mine. Located at an altitude of 3500 meters, the Flor de los Andes deposit was already exploited in the era of pre-Columbian civilizations.
It is from this deposit in Chile that our drilled Lapis Lazuli stones come.
Lapis-Lazuli has often been confused with sapphire because of its deep, intense and luminous blue. It was nicknamed the "star sapphire" in reference to the small golden spots that sparkle on the mineral.
In reality, it is yellow shards of pyrite that give this impression of golden glitter, especially when placed facing the light of the sun.
One of the factors which makes it possible to estimate the value of a Lapis-Lazuli is its content of pyrite, if it has spots of white calcite and most importantly its color. The more traces of other minerals it contains, the more it loses in intensity.
I hope that this article, you will have been able, will have taught you things?
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You will find on the shop , beautiful natural Lapis-Lazuli stones from Afghanistan and Chile, cut, polished and mounted in our French workshop.

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