It derived its name from the Latin word “Lapis” meaning stone and “azul” from an Arabic word signifying blue. Lapis lazuli is a mixture of several minerals. The best lapis lazuli still come from Badakschan, in the northeastern part of Afghanistan.
The biggest mine of lapis lazuli is the sar-e-sang deposits in Afghanistan and is one of the oldest mines in the world, producing continuously for over 7000 years. Lapis is also found in Chile, Usa, Pakistan, but good quality is rare.
Ancient Egyptian has been using lapis in ornamental decoration for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans used it as a reward for bravery and the Romans also believed lapis to be a powerful aphrodisiac. Kings and emperors used it to demonstrate their power to the outside world. The remnants of lapis lazuli tiles can still be seen in many ancient tombs in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Tutankhamun’s death mask was a perfect study in gold and lapis. Historians believe it was one of the first gems worn in jewelry. Cleopatra used ground up lapis as an early form of eye shadow. It was considered even more precious than gold. What made it twice as precious was its other use as the source of ultramarine paint. Lapis was so costly not only because of its distant source, but also the difficulty in extracting the blue pigment from the stone.
During the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli was believed to maintain the skeleton in healthy condition while keeping the spirit free from the negative emotions of fear and jealousy. Lapis Lazuli boosts the immune system, purifies blood, lowers blood pressure, strengthens total awareness, creativity, thyroid, helps to expand viewpoint. It is also believed to improve sleep, cure insomnia and overcomes depression.
Lapis lazuli is a versatile gemstone that historically has served a multitude of purposes, it has not only attracted the people of ancient times, but still fascinates the people of modern age.