Lapis lazuli is a deep blue semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color.
Lapis lazuli was being mined in the Sar-i Sang mines and in other mines in the Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan as early as the 7th millennium BCE, Lapis beads have been found at neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and even as far from Afghanistan as Mauritania. It was used for the eyebrows on the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BCE).
The beautiful blues in paintings from the Renaissance are thanks to the blue of lapis lazuli, the opaque blue gem material that was the secret ingredient in ultramarine, the valuable pigment that all the old masters used to capture the rich blues of the sea and sky and the robes of the Virgin Mary. The color wasn't duplicated by any other substance until 1834 but even now, some argue there is no substitute: unlike other pigments ultramarine centuries old still glows with rich color today.
As befits a gem that has been international currency for millennia, the name lapis lazuli is mélange of languages. From the Latin, lapis means stone. From the Arabic, azul means blue.
Lapis lazuli is still mined at the deposits of the ancient world in Afghanistan. Today lapis lazuli is also mined in Chile. Small quantities are also produced in Siberia, in Colorado in the United States, and in Myanmar (Burma.)
Here is a photo of a silver pendant with dark lapis lazuli:
Check out more jewelry with lapis lazuli.