Lapis Lazuli Properties and Characteristics
Extracted and used for 7000 years, lapis lazuli is one of the most prized rocks, both in mineralogy, jewelry and lithotherapy. Its millenary history is fascinating, and its multiple powers and virtues make it a stone with a thousand and one riches. In this new article, let's go to the discovery of the beautiful "stone of azure"...
Lapis lazuli stone : Mineralogical properties
Lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock of very variable composition which is most often formed in limestone. It is mainly composed of lazurite (25 to 40%), which gives it its deep blue color, between azure and ultramarine.
Lapis lazuli is typically strewn with veins of pyrite, which has sometimes been mistaken for gold dust. Other minerals can be found in its composition, primarily calcite and sodalite, but also augite, mica and hauynite.
Lazurite is the mineral that gives its blue color to lapis lazuli. This form of cubic dodecahedron crystals can reach up to 5 cm in diameter, but pure, geometrically shaped pieces (as in the photo at right) remain very rare.
Although it has the appearance of a hard stone, lapis lazuli has a relatively low hardness of 5.5 to 6. It has a perfect cleavage and a refractive index of 1.5. Depending on the pyrite powder content, the stone has a density ranging from 2.7 to 2.9.
Lapis lazuli is an opaque stone with a dull luster, which derives its value from the intensity and dominance of its blue color. The more white calcite veins or pyrite chips it contains, the less valuable it is.
The rarest and most beautiful lapis are found in Afghanistan, particularly in the Badakhshan province, where the stone has been mined for thousands of years. Those of lesser value generally come from Russia, the Lake Baikal region and Siberia. The Chilean deposits, located in Ovalle, extract a paler variety of the stone (note in passing that lapis lazuli is the "national stone" of the country).
Etymology and meaning of the word "lapis lazuli"
The name of the stone is composed of the Latin words "lapis" (meaning "stone") and "lazuli" (meaning "azure"). The term lazuli is derived from the Persian lâdjaward, itself derived from the Sanskrit "raja farta", which means "portion of a king" (and indicates the almost sacred value given to this mineral). The Persian term became lazul in Arabic, then lazulum in Latin. Literally, lapis lazuli is therefore "the stone of azure".
Its ultramarine blue and golden flakes give Lapis Lazuli the appearance of a starry sky.
But the stone has had various names over the millennia. In ancient times, it was not uncommon to confuse it with another blue stone: sapphire. This was for example the case of Pliny the Elder, Roman author of the first century, but also of Theophrastus in the third century BC and Georgius Agricola in the fifteenth century. The latter described the stone as a sapphire with golden spots, which reminded them of a sky full of stars.
When it was introduced into Europe in the 5th century A.D., it was also referred to as ultramarinum. This Latin term, which translates as "ultramarine", referred to the mineral's distant origin, beyond the seas. This name was given to the pigment (used in paint) made from lapis lazuli.
Lapis lazuli in history
A multitude of archaeological sites indicate a very ancient use of lapis lazuli. It goes back at least to the Neolithic (7th millennium BC). It is found in the form of beads, pendants, daggers, ornaments, and amulets. It was obviously the object of a vast commercial network, between Afghanistan, the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia and Egypt.
For the ancient civilizations of the Near East and Egypt, lapis lazuli was the true gemstone, more prized than gold itself. Although today it has been relegated to the rank of a semi-precious stone, it is no exaggeration to say, as Michèle Casanova did, that the place it occupied then is that of the diamond in modern societies.
Lapis lazuli is at the height of its symbolic and physical value during the Bronze Age, in the middle of the 3rd millennium. The Sumerians called it "the stone of stones" and located the palace of their "Great Goddess" under a mountain of lapis lazuli. Its ultramarine blue dotted with golden stars evokes the sky and its supernatural powers. Superb lapis lazuli artifacts dating from this period can be found in the tombs of the Royal Cemetery of Ur in Iraq, in Mari and in the Royal Palace of Ebla in Syria. It is the stone of the elites, the princes and the gods.
It was used to create a multitude of sumptuous objects (statuettes of animals, seals, amulets, etc.) and was said to have powerful virtues. It would be able to repel the forces of evil and it symbolizes perfection. It is within this framework that in the 3rd and 2nd millenniums spread in the Near East and in Egypt, the idea according to which "to possess a parcel of lapis lazuli, it is to possess a parcel of divine."
Lapis lazuli is thus the symbol of power, spiritual and political. It is both the "stone of the gods", in particular the Egyptian goddess Isis, and the "stone of the Pharaohs". The latter shaped it in a thousand ways (amulets, scarabs, ornaments...) and used it to make the eyes of their statues and statuettes. The Louvre Museum in Paris exhibits for example the statue of Ebih-II, whose pupils were inlaid with lapis lazuli. The funerary mask of Tutankhamen is also inlaid with lapis lazuli, at the level of the eyebrows.
In Greco-Roman antiquity, lapis lazuli did not occupy a truly remarkable place. The Romans believed it had aphrodisiac properties and used it as an antidote to snake bites. Besides that, it is crushed and used as a cosmetic. It is this use of the stone that will develop later, in Europe in the Middle Ages.
Real ultramarine, a pigment used in painting, is made from crushed lapis lazuli. From 1400 onwards, lapis lazuli was used mainly to make a pigment used in painting: ultramarine blue. It is this pigment that will be used, for example, to make the sky of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
It is extremely expensive but will remain in common use among painters until the nineteenth century, when it is replaced by a synthetic pigment.
Still available today, prices for this natural ultramarine or "true ultramarine" can reach 20,000USD per kilo, depending on its quality and origin.
Use of lapis lazuli in lithotherapy
Crystallized lapis lazuli is a very powerful stone, but it remains quite rare and therefore relatively expensive. For best results, choose a stone with a strong ultramarine blue color and pyrite chips to the lighter one with white veins.
Lapis lazuli healing properties
At the physical level, lapis lazuli is a stone of balance, appeasement, regulation and repair. In the Middle Ages, the stone was known for its rejuvenating effect on the body. It was said to help maintain healthy limbs.
It is a beneficial stone on many levels. It helps in different types of vision disorders by improving the proper functioning of the eyes and acts particularly on night vision. Its energetic action helps to fight certain allergies. It is also recommended to lower fever.
It is very effective to treat the kidneys, because it regulates the water level in the body. Its medicinal properties can be seen in the bladder, digestive system, mouth and stomach. It calms vomiting, relieves painful menstruation and maintains the endocrine glands. But it is not all...
Affections of the skin
Lapis lazuli is particularly recommended in case of insect bites or skin rashes. The calming effect of its cold blue allows to reduce the pain and helps to resorb the inflammations. It is also recommended in case of burns. You can use it to massage and relieve the affected area. In general, it strengthens the skin and helps to fight against diseases affecting this organ (allergies, eczema, etc.).
Hair and nails
An elephant sculpture in lapis lazuliIt is from the base chakra (or root chakra) that lapis lazuli works on accelerating hair and nail growth. It also helps to solve dandruff problems and allows to have beautiful hair. You can use a lapis lazuli elixir for this purpose.
Throat and respiratory system
Placed at the level of the throat chakra, lapis lazuli is particularly beneficial to this region of the body. It plays a role in strengthening the lungs, fortifies the throat, activates the functioning of the thymus and helps with diseases of the pharynx.
The natural stone is known to stop coughing and sneezing. In particular, it resolves inflammation of the tonsils and the area between the throat and the upper part of the lungs (bronchi, pharynx, etc.). It is a stone recommended for asthmatics.
High blood pressure
Lapis lazuli strengthens and regulates blood pressure. It is beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure. However, it is anything but an asset for those with low blood pressure. The latter are advised not to wear the stone, nor to keep it in their rooms during their sleep.
Migraines and headaches
Lapis lazuli is known for its ability to soothe headaches. You can take advantage of its curative action by taking a pebble and applying it to the painful areas of the head or neck. To prevent migraine recurrence, sleep with a lapis lazuli stone under your pillow for a few days.
Hearing and tinnitus
Lapis lazuli is recommended as a stone beneficial to the auditory system. It helps in case of hearing loss. For people suffering from tinnitus, it is recommended to massage the ear area with a lapis lazuli, in order to reduce the volume and intensity of whistling or phantom noises.
Lapis Lazuli metaphysical properties
Psychologically and spiritually, lapis lazuli lifts the soul and stabilizes the spirit. It is a stone that brings wisdom, self-confidence, intuition and creative expression. It aids introspection, inner discipline and allows one to be more vigorous, focused and serene at the same time.
Symbol of protection, lapis lazuli helps to get through difficult times and situations. It is able to revive the courage of its owner, to release him from his anxieties and to relieve his stress. Lapis lazuli extinguishes anger, brings peace and serenity, and allows one to face the truth with objectivity and clarity.
Spiritual elevation and creative expression
The appearance of lapis physically reveals its celestial power. It allows us to blend into the starry vault to better understand our position in the universe. The stone thus plays a role in improving mental sharpness and stimulating creative expression. Being an excellent diagnostician of deficiencies, it also helps in the correction of weaknesses at the psychic and psychological levels.
Courage and self-confidence
Lapis stone is most suitable for shy, introverted and withdrawn people, as it enhances self-confidence through self-acceptance. Being a symbol of strong personality and hope, it gives courage to people wishing to move forward and overcome their limits. It also shapes humor and repartee. It is the ideal stone in all fields concerning communication.
Memory of dreams and lucid dreams
Lapis lazuli, as a stone that promotes inner vision, also facilitates dream memory, dream interpretation, and the occurrence of lucid dreams.
Depression and anxiety
Lapis lazuli helps to harmonize the different physical, psychological, and spiritual planes. It prevents imbalances that are likely to cause unhappiness and the appearance of depressive states. It helps to overcome depression and to get rid of anxiety and old fears.
Opening of the 3rd eye
It is sometimes recommended that lapis lazuli be worn in the middle of the forehead as it opens the third eye and stimulates inner vision, intuition and the higher faculties of the mind. The lapis has the reputation to activate the clairvoyance and to support the radiesthesist researches. It is a stone capable of connecting the higher self to the divine guide and facilitating meditation.
Stone of love and friendship
Known as a stone of good humor, lapis lazuli improves human relationships. It brings people together and creates an aura of shared joy and tenderness around its owner. It helps mend conflicts and pushes people to openness and honesty. This blue stone is also known to influence fidelity as it strengthens the bonds between two lovers.