Lapis Lazuli

Lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock best known for its intense blue color.  The blue is from the mineral lazulite, a sodium-rich feldspathoid mineral.  Most lapis also contains white calcite, golden pyrite, black augite, and blue sodalite.  Lapis is found in limestone in Afghanistan, where it has been mined for jewelry and art for more than 6000 years.  The lapis was exported to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.  It was used in the funeral mask for King Tut.  In the middle ages it was exported to Europe where it was used as a prized pigment, ultramarine.  Due to the difficulty in acquiring this pigment, the color was used sparingly to denote royalty or high religious leaders, especially the Virgin Mary.  Ultramarine has been found in the dental tartar of religious nuns and priests and was used as evidence that nuns were as active as priests in transcribing religious documents (previously thought to be solely a male occupation).  The pigment in the tartar comes from the nuns and priests licking the brushes to wet them.  In late classical times through the Middle Ages it was sometimes called sapphire, though it has no semblance to what we call sapphire today.

In addition to the Afghan deposits, lapis is also extracted in the Andes, Siberia, Russia, and in smaller amounts in Angola, Argenitna, Burma, Pakistan, Canada, Italy, India, and in the United States in California and Colorado.

Lapis lazuli is associated with the third eye chakra and is thought to promote psychological healing.


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