Did you know that lapis lazuli jewelry has been trending since 1636? That’s the first time that the lapis stone was mentioned in history by the Finish physician Anselmus Boetus de Boodt.

Since then, the semi-precious stone has been treasured for its rich lapis color. Here’s everything you need to know about the history of lapis lazuli jewelry.

History of Lapis Lazuli

Although it might be hard to believe, early researchers commonly referred to lapis lazuli as sapphire because of their similar color. In fact, blue lapis lazuli jewelry has been unearthed in ancient tombs around the world, including:

  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Mesopotamia
  • Egypt
  • China
  • Greece
  • Rome

That’s not all. In 700 BC, lapis lazuli was produced in special mines back when Afghanistan was known as “Bactria”. Not to mention the fact that Afghanistan is still the world’s oldest manufacturer of the gemstone.

Want to know the best part? Lapis lazuli was used to stamp documents back in the prehistoric Near East. Amazingly, the lapis lazuli stamp was used to mark seals, inscriptions, and signatures. As if that wasn’t enough, people actually wore the lapis lazuli stamp as a necklace too. 

What does “lapis lazuli” mean anyway? In English, the term translates to “blue stone.” Historically, the lapis color was used by artists as a paint pigment called ultramarine. Incredibly, lapis lazuli was also used to create makeup in ancient Egypt.

Even during the 18th century, the lapis stone stone was used as a “gem language” to send a message to a loved one. How so? Passing lapis lazuli to someone you knew represented “good luck” and “love me” during this period in time.

However, the lapis stone hasn’t only been used to make jewelry over the years. It’s also been historically used to make: 

  • Gaming boards
  • Stone bowls
  • Knife handles
  • Hairbrushes
  • Amulets

Nowadays, lapis lazuli is most commonly used in works of art or fine jewelry. 

Additionally, lapis lazuli is used to make mosaics, and vases in modern times. Even carvings, boxes, ornaments, and statues are made out to the lapis lazuli stone by today’s artists.

What is Lapis Lazuli?

Ever wonder what lazurite is? Basically, it’s the primary mineral that’s responsible for the lapis lazuli stone’s formation. In addition to lazurite, most lapis lazuli stones also have: 

  • Calcite
  • Sodalite
  • Pyrite 

While calcite provides the white color to lapis lazuli, sodalite contributes the signature blue color. Also, pyrite gives a yellow tone to the gemstone. All of these minerals are part of what makes lapis lazuli unique.

Known as a metamorphic rock, lapis lazuli occurs when several other rocks melt together to form a new type of stone. 

What makes lapis lazuli jewelry so blue? According to scientists, the royal blue color of lapis lazuli is due to the presence of a cell called trisulfur radical anion in the gemstone.

Now: lapis lazuli is usually made in the laboratory. Using the Gilson process, the semi-precious stone is created to make fake ultramarine and hydrous zinc phosphates.

Other substitutes for the lapis lazuli stone include: 

  • Spinel
  • Sodalite
  • Jasper (that’s been dyed)
  • Howlite

Lapis Lazuli Legends

What’s the real story about lapis lazuli? Legend has it that the mystical goddess of Sumeria, Inanna, entered the netherworld with a lapis lazuli necklace around her neck. The craziest part? The tale of Inanna was written in 4,000 BCE.

According to Scott Cunningham, the author of Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic, “In ancient Sumer, lapis lazuli has timeless associations” with the realm of the gods. 

Cunningham continues that the stone supposedly contains “the soul of the deity, who would ‘rejoice in its owner.’” That’s why Egyptian royalty preferred to use the lapis lazuli stone to decorate their judges with lapis lazuli emblems.

This is crazy: there’s an ancient Persian legend about the lapis lazuli stone. Back in the day, it was believed that the skies were blue because the world sat upon a gigantic slab of lapis lazuli. 

Astonishingly, lapis lazuli was also seen as a sacred gem of sorts. It was placed into the coffins of the dead to lead the way for them into the next life. 

It gets better: the lapis lazuli stone was also used in the Americas to make decorative masks by several tribes, including:

  • The Incas
  • The Molles
  • The Diaguitas 

Did you know that ancient people in the Middle East thought that lapis lazuli had magical properties? That’s why so many rings, scarab beetles, and figurines were crafted out to the blue gemstone.

When the Greek king Alexander the Great discovered lapis lazuli in Egypt, he brought tons of it back with him to Europe. Once there, Europeans called the semi-precious stone “ultramarine,” meaning “of the sea.”

Apparently, lapis lazuli was also found in the city of Ur along the banks of the Euphrates river. Surprisingly, the ancient Mesopotamian town had been trading the stone since sometime between 4000 and 3001 BC. This was made possible by the rivers that carried lapis lazuli to the region from Afghanistan.

The Story of Lapis Lazuli

The story of lapis lazuli is truly an ancient one.

First documented in the 1600s, the lapis lazuli stone has been around since at least 4,000 BCE. From makeup to vases, the semi-precious stone has always been celebrated for its rich hue.

Today, lapis lazuli jewelry is a must-have for every gem collector!

If you’re interested in finding the right lapis lazuli jewelry for you, check out our blog. Contact Us today!

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