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Lapis Lazuli

...courtesy of Nature's Bounty,
a gem and mineral shop in Carmel, California

Lapis Lazuli is a rare mineral, beautiful dark blue in color and normally found in crystallized limestone. It's a mix of lazulite with small amounts of calcite, pyroxene and other pyrite silicates (fool's gold). Its chemical composition includes aluminum, silica, oxygen, sodium, calcite, sulfur and pyrite; the latter being responsible for the splashes of metallic color.

It is a semi-precious stone whose name derives from "lapis," stone in Latin and "lazuli," blue in Arabic. Historically, it has been considered an excellent ornamental jewel. Eastern and Middle Eastern legends date it at 3000 B.C. and place its use primarily in necklaces, as shown by archeological remains and mummies in the British Museum of Archeology in London.

Two thousand years B.C. the dynastics of the valley of the Nile used it as their official stone; royal seals, rings an jewelry were made of lapis lazuli becoming an aristocratic symbol of that time.

In powdered form, it was used by Egyptian women to paint their eyes and by painters and great masters to adorn walls and later canvas.

Combined with gold, it made excellent jewelry, ornaments and funeral masks, the most famous of all being the face mask found in young King Tut's tomb.

Lapis Lazuli inspired and influenced other civilizations; i.e. Greek figures and decorations dating from 1200 B.C. at the museums of Heraklion and Benaki in Athens; Hindu and Far Eastern necklaces from around that time, northern Chilean ornaments from the Chimu tribe (Inca Empire), more than 2000 years old. Biblically, it is named as one of the 12 stones of Aaron's breast plate, thus directly relating it to one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Legends of Lapis are varied and quite old. The Egyptians dedicated it to the goddess Isis, the Greeks and Romans to Venus. As a powder it was recommended for skin diseases. Due to its sulfur content, it was used for treating epilepsy and anemia. Older traditions placed it as the stone of good luck, love, power and wealth. Polished and in contact with the skin, it is supposed to produce personal happiness, energy and good business results.

The San Francisco Gem & Mineral Society, Inc.

4134 Judah Street

San Francisco, CA 94122


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