Lapis Lazuli

A rock has several minerals. Lapis lazuli is a rock, which means this ancient gem contains three minerals in varying amounts: lazurite, calcite, and pyrite. Sometimes, it also contains one or more of the following: diopside, amphibole, feldspar, and mica. Although lapis is usually described as indigo, royal, midnight, or marine blue, lapis lazuli’s signature hue is a slightly greenish blue to violetish blue and very deep in color. The combination of different minerals in the aggregate determines the color. For example, lazurite is responsible for producing royal blue lapis, while the mineral called afghanite creates a pale blue shade. Lapis is mined in several areas. The traditional source of the finest lapis lazuli is in the mountains of Afghanistan. Other major sources are Chile and Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. The lapis mines that were producing in 700 B.C. are still producing today. They are, in fact, the world’s oldest known commercial gemstone sources. Typically, lapis used in jewelry has been cut into cabochons, beads, inlays, and tablets. But it's use has never been limited to only jewelry. It’s also a popular carving material. Lapis has been fashioned into practical objects, such as, game boards, bowls, dagger handles, hair combs, and amulets.