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Lapis lazuli is one of the traditional birthstones for the month of December.
Note: Lapis lazuli is technically a rock containing the blue mineral lazurite, related to hauyne, and sodalite. The rock typically also contains white (calcite) and flecks of "gold" (pyrite).
Mineral formula: Na7Ca(Al6Si6O24)(SO4)(S3) · H2O
Crystal system: Isometric
Crystal habit: Dodecahedrons, cubes, granular, disseminated, massive.
Cleavage: imperfect / fair
Color: ultramarine, midnight blue, blue-green
Moh’s scale hardness: 5 – 5 ½
Streak: bright blue
Specific gravity: 2.38 – 2.45
Named after: the Persian "Lazhward" for "blue." Also for its dark blue color resemblance to "azurite." Both Lazurite and azurite derive from "Lazhward".
Type locality: Malo-Bystrinskoe lazurite deposit, Malaya Bystraya River Valley, Slyudyanka, Lake Baikal area, Irkutsk Oblast, Russia
Geological occurrence: Contact metamorphism of limestone or evaporite beds.
Energetic properties: Lapis lazuli is associated with the third eye, enhancing psychic awareness. It quickly relieves stress, bringing great serenity and deep peace through its harmonizing and integrating properties. Known since antiquity as a protective stone, it has been reported to block psychic attack.
The mineral lazurite is the main component in lapis lazuli and accounts for the stone's intense blue color, although lapis lazuli also contains pyrite and calcite, and usually some sodalite and hauyne, too. Lazurite itself, a sodium calcium aluminosilicate sulfate, forms distinct crystals; it should not be confused with the phosphate lazulite. In lapis lazuli, lazurite is well dispersed. Distinct crystals were thought to be very rare until large numbers were brought out of the mines of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, in the 1990s.
The best quality lapis lazuli is intense dark blue, with minor patches of white calcite and brassy yellow pyrite. Historians believe the link between humans and lapis lazuli stretches back more than 6,500 years. The gem was treasured by the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome. They valued it for its vivid, exquisite color, and prized it as much as they prized other blue gems like sapphire and turquoise. Lapis lazuli was used as a gemstone for millennia by the Egyptians: the mask of Tutankhamun, for example, has lapis lazuli inlays. Other objects containing lapis lazuli, including scarabs, pendants, and beads date from much earlier, at least 3100 BC.
Lapis lazuli is relatively rare and commonly forms in crystalline limestone as a product of contact metamorphism. The mines in Afghanistan remain a major source. Lighter blue material comes from Chile, and some lapis lazuli is found in Italy, Argentina, the US, and Tajikistan. Diopside, amphibole, feldspar, mica, apatite, titanite (sphene), and zircon may also occur in lapis lazuli, depending on its origin.
History and Lore
- Powdered lapis was used as one of the first cosmetics – eye shadow – by Egyptians and other ancient peoples.
- Lapis was used as a medicine by many ancient cultures. Laid on the eyes, it was means to cure eye disease. The Greeks used it as a cure for snake bite, and for melancholy.
- Lapis was considered to be a magical stone, helping to draw out evil humors and demons from the body when combined with gold and water and turned into a paste.
- Lapis is often used to make amulets protecting from the evil eye.
- One legend states that King Solomon was given possession of a lapis lazuli ring by an angel. This ring allowed him to control an army of demons, which he used to build his temple