Finished pieces with lapis as well as polished rough. Photo: gia.edu
Lapis is popular with carvers. Photo credit: gia.edu
Blue deep as an ocean, brighter than a ripe blueberry... lapis has been treasured for centuries. Intrigued? We are too- Fun Facts: Lapis Lazuli is actually a rock comprised of three minerals lazurite, calcite, and pyrite. Lazurite is responsible for creating the prized blue we see. Lapis was treasured by ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The sparkle you see is due to flecks of pyrite. As early as 1271, Marco Polo was describing ancient Lapis mines. Localities: The treasured rock is found in Colorado in the United States as well as Chile, Afghanistan, and Russia. Color: Described as indigo, midnight, royal, or marine blue, Lapis Lazuli is a slightly greenish blue to violetish blue with a medium to dark tone. The blue is highly saturated. The higher priced pieces have no visible white (calcite), but it may or may not have gold flecks (pyrite). Shapes: Lapis Lazuli is usually cut into cabochons, beads, and tablets. It makes for beautiful inlay in rings as well as being popular with carvers (for centuries). Clarity: The presence of pyrite doesn't lower the value of Lapis if they are small and sprinkled throughout the gem. The lower quality Lapis Lazuli looks dull and green- this can be due to excess Pyrite. Lapis with more calcite/white streaks is less valuable in the current market. Size: It can be found in a variety of sizes, but often it is cut into calibrated sizes (standard sizes for jewelry) or beads. Treatments: While Lapis Lazuli is normally not treated, there have been case where some lighter pieces have been dyed and then resin coated. There are many dyed rocks that are used to imitate Lapis too- an example is dyed Howlite.