Lapis Lazuli! Few other materials have caused such grief for the people who live around a mineral deposit. The finest Lapis is found in West Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, way up in the highlands. It is found in irregular and random deposits, encased in limestone, and is still mined by hand as the terrain is too inaccessible for heavy machinery to be brought in economically. Inferior quality Lapis is found in Russia and Chile but the Calcite inclusions are much larger and they often lack the Pyrite and Mica inclusions that are so prized in fine Lapis.
This opaque gem is composed of a mass of Sulfurous Sodium Aluminum Silicate. The main ingredient is Lazurite, with a sprinkling of Pyrites and Calcite. It can also contains, in small quantities and depending on location it is from, Augite, Diopside, Mica, Hauynite and Hornblende. Because of the variance in makeup, it is sometimes considered, by some, as a rock, rather than a mineral. Lapis should not be confused with Lazulite, a transparent gem from a completely different genus.
Lapis is fairly soft and easily fashioned, and easily damaged, very sensitive to pressure, heat, acid and alkalies. When polished, it has a greasy, glassy luster rather than a shine. It is amazing that it is used as a gemstone at all, except for one redeeming grace: its beautiful, rich, dark blue colour.
Lapis is worn in all types of jewellery and is also carved into beads and statues. It was a pigment for Aquamarine in the art world and has been used in ostentatious buildings as wall material, mosaics and as cladding for pillars. Fine Intaglio boxes and panels often include Lapis as a major component.
Fine Lapis can fetch surprising prices, especially if set in Gold and highlighted with faceted gems. We regularly stock Lapis set in Sterling, Gold and as unset stones. Be sure to come in and view this beautiful material when you are in the neighborhood.