Lapis Lazuli is Latin Language meaning blue stone. The stone is formed of layers of multiple minerals including Sodalite, Lazurite, Calcite and Pyrite ( which are the flecks of gold). A lower grade of the stone exists that is of a less brilliant blue with mostly white flecks and only a few of gold. Lapis Lazuli has a history as colorful as the stone itself.
A rich, royal blue and flecked with gold, the stone has been highly sought after since ancient times. Evidence can be found of its existence since the recorded history of mankind. It has been highly regarded for its use in jewelry and the brilliant ultramarine dye that can be made from it.
Archeologists have found that the stone was used in abundance thousands of years ago by the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia. Chains and figures of lapis have been discovered many times in the excavations of ancient grave sites.
It is thought that the inhabitants of the city of Ur along the Euphrates River bartered with lapis lazuli, obtaining it from the land that is now Afghanistan. This would have been as long ago as the 400 B.C..
Probably because the colorful stone was such a contrast to the starkness of the land, the Egyptians regarded the stone as having supernatural forces. The priests and royals of the land colored their garments with dye made from the stones. This indicated their closeness in status to the gods.
Lapis lazuli was used by the Greeks and Romans as an ornamental stone. In medieval Europe, the stone with the heavenly blue color was thought to ward off evil spirits. Michelangelo loved to paint with the ultramarine color of the dye the stone produced. Catherine the Great was so fond of it, she devoted one entire room in her palace to it with lapis walls, doors, fireplaces and mirror frames.
Lapis remains very prized and valuable. Like thousands of years ago, the best raw stones are found north east of Afghanistan. It has been found in Mongolia, Italy, the USA, Canada and Pakistan. Good quality lapis is rare, making prices high.