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Lapis Lazuli / Lazurite

Known to the ancient Egyptians as the ‘Sky Stone’, Lapis Lazuli (or Lazurite) is one of the oldest gemstones – a blue stone mottled with white calcite and brassy pyrite.

Lapis Lazuli has been mined in the Kokcha valley in Afghanistan for roughly 7000 years. This gem was considered sacred and thus the mines were guarded intensely. Unauthorised approach to a mine was punished with death and the miners were secured to the shafts by chains, to avoid sticky fingered workers running away! Not that you would have wanted to be a refugee in the narrow desolate Kokcha defile with its steep and jagged sides, riddled with wolves, and wild hogs.

Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan in its natural state. By Hannes Grobe [CC BY-SA 2.5], from Wikimedia Commons
Lazurite has been used throughout the centuries as a protective stone and was also used by the Pharaohs to ward of the ill effects of incest, as they traditionally married their eldest sister.

Not only was it a favourite jewellery stone, but is also a historical pigment having been found in Egyptian tomb paintings as far back as the Fourth Dynasty (6th Century BC ). The statue of pharaoh TutmosIII is covered with Lazurite, and Egyptian ladies loved to wear the pigment as cosmetic eye shadow.

Later, painters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, used Lazurite in their oil paintings.

The Europeans called it Ultramarine, which means ‘over the water’.

Lazurite is associated with the 6th chakra or third eye, and is thought to enhance wisdom, inner vision and mental clarity. It can also help to overcome depression, and enhances feeling of self acceptance.

Even though smaller deposits of Lazurite have been found in Chile, Siberia and Burma, the Afghanistan stones are by far the better quality. Thus with the political turmoil in Afghanistan, the future of this noble gem hangs in clouds of uncertainty.


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