A Beautiful, Royal Mess: The History and Current State of Lapis Lazuli

June 06, 2016 0 Comments

A Beautiful, Royal Mess: The History and Current State of Lapis Lazuli

This week, with inspiration from an article published by the BBC, we decided to write about lapis lazuli- a celestial, rich, blue-hued mineral that has been used in jewelry and pigment making for over six thousand years. 

"Lapis lazuli" is the name given to this stone which is made up of a number of individual minerals: lazurite, a highly sought after blue colored stone; pyrite, a popular gold- toned crystal; and other minerals such as sodalite (another blue and white toned mineral), and calcite (often milky white). The picture here shows a specimen that likely contains all of these.  

Lapis jewelry was used to decorate the necks of royalty as far back as the ancient city of Ur, in Mesopotamia, approximately around 3800 BC. Thousands of years later, medieval monks used the crushed up stone as pigment for decorating their intricately painted manuscripts. During the Renaissance it is believed that this blue pigment was used to depict the royal robes of the Virgin Mary. In the new age world, lapis can pass as both the throat and third eye chakra balancing stone, because of the middle-hued blue color it possesses. Because of this, the stone is great for problems with the throat, thyroid, or larynx, and helps with insomnia, headaches, and other brain disorders, among other things. Metaphysically, lapis supposedly aids in learning, understanding, focus and problem solving.

However you use lapis, it is important to know that today the state of lapis lazuli is quite sad. The majority of it has been found and mined in Afghanistan since ancient times, where today, roughly about 50% of the profits made from this trade go directly into the hands of the Taliban, a corrupt government system hat now "own" the same mines used for lapis mining for almost 6 thousand years.

It is an incredibly complicated issue, and if possible, it is best to source this mineral from the other parts of the word where it is found, such as Russia, Chile, Italy, and even the USA, even if the quality is different. 

 

For more detailed information on the current state of the lapis trade, visit the BBC article here.

 

lapis





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