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Lapis lazuli

Lapis lazuli sculpture

The name of lapis lazuli has international roots. The word lapis is the Latin «lapis» meaning stone, and lazuli comes from an old Arabic word, «allazjward», meaning heaven, sky or simply blue.

Lapis lazuli shares with turquoise the distinction of being among the most prized of all gemstones of earlier civilizations. In a grave from the Indus valley, the lapis ornaments found were dated as 9000 years old.

In Babylonia, Ur and ancient Egypt, lapis was very highly valued. It was believed to cure melancholy and one particular kind of recurrent fever. In Rome it was considered a powerful aphrodisiac.

In South America, the Chilean deposit of lapis lazuli was used by ancient civilizations at least 1500 years B.C.

Lapis powder was extensively used by Roman, Persian and Chinese women to paint their eyebrows.

Lapis lazuli oval cabochons From the days of ancient Greece and Rome trough to the Renaissance, lapis was pulverized to make a durable pigment called ultramarine, which was used extensively to produce the intense blue of many of the world’s most famous oil paintings.
This ultramarine pigment was in use until the nineteenth century when another method to produce this color was found.

Lapis lazuli is the alternative to turquoise and ruby as birthstones for December.


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