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Legacy in stone

Its intense blue colour is only comparable to a serene star-studded night sky. One of the oldest gemstones with a grand legacy...

March 2, 2009 6:15:20 am

The Lapis Lazuli outshines with its diverse uses

Its intense blue colour is only comparable to a serene star-studded night sky. One of the oldest gemstones with a grand legacy,Lapis lazuli is actually a rock formation comprising of various minerals,the main components being azurite,calcite,sodalite and pyrite. It gets the name from Latin ‘lapis’ meaning ‘stone’ and Farsi ‘azul’ implying ‘blue’. Excavations time and again indicate popularity of the fervent blue gemstone with golden flecks amongst civilizations of Egypt,Mesopotamia,Persia,Greece and Rome. The legendry city of Ur piled a keen Lapis Lazuli trade as long as the 4th millennium BC,sourcing it from the famous deposits in Afghanistan. It was revered for its virtues enhancing mental clarity,honesty and true friendship by diverse mores world over. Both

Christians and Egyptians associated it with motherhood. Hindus believe that Lapis worn on a gold chain protects their child from evil.

Lapis Lazuli is also a famous poem written by W B Yeats and the gemstone also finds a mention in Robert Browning’s work. A Lapis Lazuli inlaid spittoon forms a central theme of a part of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight Children’. Countless mosaics,signet rings,scarabs and figurines were wrought from this very ‘ultramarine’ (from beyond the seas) blue brought to Europe by Alexander the Great. Lapis is the ultramarine of the Old Masters and scores immeasurable worth in the world of art. Ground into fine powder and stirred with appropriate binding agents Lapis may be used as a radiant water colour,tempera or oil-paint. Many pictures of Madonna were created using Lapis and they haven’t lost sheen yet! Lapis Lazuli is an admirable gemstone. Its intense blue hue with flecks of golden pyrite is best set in bezel with most accents of metal. Stones with zilch white calcite veins and sole pyrite inclusions are highly prized. Often Lapis is dyed to improve colour,producing a dark blue with gray cast giving parts of it a milky appearance. More recently,actress Christina Taylor wore a pair of drop earrings ending with Lapis donuts wrapped in diamonds and a ring fashioned from Lapis diamonds and platinum for the premiere of ‘Tropic Thunder’. I suggest you steal any party’s thunder with a striking Lapis string but remember that most of the cheap version available might be dyed Howlite!

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(The writer is a city-based researcher specialising in jewellery art and can be contacted at

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