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The Alchemy of Lapis Lazuli



When I was a very little girl, I was enamored with rocks. Shiny rocks, smooth rocks, rough rocks, colorful rocks - they were all good in my book. The fascination has stayed with me throughout my life; I still collect pebbles at the beach, and an ever-growing collection of stones sit in a place of honor on the mantle at home. Out of all of them, lapis lazuli has always held a special place in my heart. It's not common in southeastern Pennsylvania. But its deep lustrous blue, with the occasional fleck or streak of white and silver, has never ceased to take my breath away.



So, you'll have to forgive me for a second while I geek out and present you with a full dissertation on lapis lazuli. It's going to be long. I'm not sorry.


Lapis Lazuli in History


Lapis lazuli is a stone rich in history, being found at sites throughout the Indus Valley, as well as neolithic burials in modern-day Pakistan and Mauritania. (1) Its use in Mesopotamian cultures was so well documented, as to be mentioned several times in the Epic of Gilgamesh! (2) Ancient Egypt utilized lapis lazuli extensively, from richly colored beads to carved amulets, and even purportedly ground down to a powder, for eye shadow (I wouldn't recommend that). (3) By the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli had made its way to Europe, where its color was associated with the robes of the Virgin Mary; and by the Rennaisance, it had become the most costly paint pigment in the world, second only to gold. (1) Ground down to a powder and mixed with binders, this precious paint was the original ultramarine and was so prized that its use was almost exclusively limited to the depiction of the robes of important religious figures, most predominantly the Virgin Mary.



It is particularly interesting to note that all the way through to the Middle Ages, what we call "lapis lazuli" went by a completely different, but no less familiar name: Sapphire. (4) The name itself is derived from the Latin and Greek words for "blue" (saphirus and sapheiros), and was a direct reference to the color of the stone. In fact, it is commonly held that any blue crystal would have been referred to as sapphire for quite some time. (1) the modern name for lapis lazuli is a hybrid, combining Latin (lapis or "stone") with "Latin-ized" Persian (لاجورد lājevard or "heaven/ sky", which became lazulum the origin of the word "azure"), or "stone of heaven". (1)(5)


Lapis Lazuli in the Modern Era


From a technical standpoint, lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock, meaning the rich-hued gemstone we know and love is the result of a high-pressure transformation. (6) The main component of lapis lazuli is lazurite, which gives the rich blue hue, with a small amount of calcite (which shows up as white streaks) and pyrite (which is visible as metallic speckles. (1) I will exert some self-control and not swamp you with a forty-paragraph footnote on metamorphosis. (7) But you should look it up. It's pretty cool. The bulk of lapis lazuli deposits are found in Afghanistan, Siberia, and the Andes of Peru and Chile. There are smaller deposits in Angola, Argentina, Myanmar, Pakistan, Canada, Italy, India, Mongolia, and the United States. (1)



While it's not something that is at the forefront of many people's minds, lapis lazuli is one of the stones that I try to encourage people to source mindfully. Up until fairly recently, a fair percentage of the world's lapis lazuli supply still came from Afghanistan, which is currently under Taliban control. I think you can do the A to B on where I'm going with this. Dubious attempts have been made to have Afghan lapis lazuli classified as a "blood mineral" (the most notorious of the lot is currently blood diamonds), which would impose restrictions on its trade. (8) And while Afghan lapis lazuli is absolutely stunning and vibrant, there are other places that are less problematic, that you can source it from. Any gemstone or crystal seller worth their salt will know where their stones were sourced. So ask them before you purchase. There's no excuse for ignorance on that front.


Lapis Lazuli in Metaphysics and Magic



Speaking of crystal sellers, lapis lazuli has been valued in the metaphysical communities as a stone of wisdom, truth, and courage. (9) As a stone of wisdom, lapis lazuli is valued for its purported abilities to open up the mind, stimulating the desire for knowledge and encouraging a deeper connection and understanding of one's self through expression and confidence. (10) As a stone of truth, lapis lazuli supports qualities of honesty and awareness, balanced with a connection to one's intuition and clear communication. (9)(10) As a stone of courage, lapis lazuli encourages resilience of the mind when our mettle is tested. (10)



Lapis lazuli is associated with the chakras of the throat and the third eye (much like metamorphosis, I won't be going too deeply into chakras. But I do encourage you to dive into the research if you are interested in the Hindu or Buddhist tantras, or New Age traditions. There is so much more to chakras than a cute color palette and a Pinterest infographic!). The throat chakra (or Visshudha) is often associated with the color blue, and with communication, both in literal speaking and in communicating your inner truth. (11)(12) Lapis lazuli is believed to be beneficial for encouraging and supporting awareness of the truest form of one's self, as well as enhancing communication between friends and partners. (10) The third eye chakra (or Ajna) is frequently linked to the color indigo, and to perception, awareness, and consciousness, as well as innate intuition. (13) Lapis lazuli is believed to enhance spiritual awareness and connection, as well as strengthen divinatory abilities. (10)


As you can see, there are a lot of fascinating things going on with this stone. It's the blue, really, that does it for me. Blue of any form is not one commonly found in nature, especially not one so lusciously vivid. The Lapis Lazuli products were my own attempt to capture that beautiful blue with botanicals (butterfly pea flower, indigo, chamomile, and tansy). It often tickles me when people ask if the color comes from the stone itself. Sadly, the Lapis Lazuli products are named strictly for their rich blue color. I do, however, use lapis lazuli as one of the synergizing stones in the Archangel Lavaliere, paired with mottle sodalite, flashing labradorite, and entrancing seraphinite.


REFERENCES (Because You're Worth It)

  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, June 23). Lapis lazuli. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapis_lazuli

  2. Mitchell, S. (2010). Gilgamesh: A New English Version. Atria Books.

  3. Lapis lazuli. (2018, June 21). New World Encyclopedia, . Retrieved 19:29, July 1, 2022 from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Lapis_lazuli&oldid=1012504

  4. Braswell-Tripp, P., & Braswell-Tripp, P. D., PhD. (2013). Real Diamonds & Precious Stones of the Bible [E-book]. Xlibris Corporation LLC.

  5. Weekley, E. (2015). An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. Palala Press.

  6. What are metamorphic rocks? | U.S. Geological Survey. (2012, March 29). United States Geological Survey (USGS). https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-metamorphic-rocks

  7. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, May 19). Metamorphism. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamorphism

  8. O’Donnell, L. (2016, June 9). Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli seen as “conflict mineral.” Record Searchlight. https://archive.redding.com/lifestyle/Afghanistans-lapis-lazuli-seen-as-conflict-mineral--382176721.html/

  9. Fire Mountain Gems. (n.d.). Gemstone Information - Lapis Lazuli Meaning and Properties - Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. Retrieved June 19, 2022, from https://www.firemountaingems.com/resources/encyclobeadia/gem-notes/gemnotelapislazuli#:%7E:text=Lapis%20Lazuli%20Metaphysical%20Properties,and%20wisdom%2C%20intellect%20and%20truth.

  10. Crystal Vaults. (2021, December 21). Lapis Lazuli Healing Properties, Meanings, and Uses. Retrieved June 19, 2022, from https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/lapis/

  11. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, June 25). Chakra. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra

  12. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, January 21). Vishuddha. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishuddha

  13. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, June 10). Ajna. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 20, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajna


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