Crystal of the Week

Crystal of the Week

Lapis Lazuli

A Brief History


    The semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli is a deep blue metamorphic rock that has been prized and held in high regard since the 7th Millennium BCE. Since this period in antiquity Lapis has been mined in the Sar-i Sang mines, in Shortugai, and in Badakhshan province (Northeast Afghanistan). This intensely blue gem has been highly valued by many cultures (including the Indus Valley Civilization 3300-1900 BC) and found at Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and Mauritania. It was even famously used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun on his eyebrows. In fact, the Egyptians valued Lapis Lazuli in higher regard than 24k gold. It is for that reason known as a “stone of royalty”. 

    By the end of the Middle Ages, Lapis started to be ground into a powder called ultramarine which was used as a pigment. It was the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments and so it was exported in large quantities to Europe so that it could be used by some of the most important figures in the artistic Renaissance and Baroque like Vermeer and Masaccio. They saved it for the central figure of the painting i.e.: the Virgin Mary.

    Geographically, Lapis is still currently mined in Northeast Afghanistan, one of the major sources of the world’s Lapis. You can also find mines in Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia (at the Tultui Lazurite Deposit), and in the Andes mountains near Ovalle, Chile; and to a lesser extent in Angola, Argentina, Burma, Pakistan, India, Italy, Mongolia, Canada, and the United States. 

    The name Lapis Lazuli is a mixture of the Latin word for stone (Lapis) and Medieval Latin that was taken from Arabic and Persian (Lazulum) which is where the stone was mined but also etymologically the root for the word “blue” in several languages (“Azul” from L-azul-um). The actual composition of Lapis is lazurite, feldspathoid silicate material, and most Lapis also has white calcite, sodalite, and pyrite. There are many pieces that you can clearly see the flecks or a band of pyrite and calcite running through the specimen (these are the most highly sought after pieces and for good reason).

    The mines in Northeastern Afghanistan mentioned above have been worked for over 6,000 years. There, the Lapis was found mostly inside Limestone deposits and traded for goods and services with the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians by Afghanistan and the Aryans. It was the same source for the Ancient Greeks and Romans later on and the Indus Valley Civilization’s Harappan Colony (aka Shortugai) established themselves around 2000 BCE near these mines. 

    According to mineralogist Pierre Bariand and his work on sourcing the modern day’s Lapis Lazuli, it is found in caves, not traditional mines, and the Lapis is the primary source of the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan’s Kochka River Valley and not Pakistan. 

    As you may already know, Lapis can be polished and made into jewelry, carvings, boxes, mosaics, ornaments, statues, and vases. Lapis is one of the most frequently synthesized and “faked” stones. Most of the substitutes used in its place are spinel, sodalite, or dyed jasper or howlite because they are cheaper than Lapis. 

    Beads of Lapis Lazuli have been found strewn about in many places in the Mediterranean, South Asia, and in the Middle East. They have been found in a neolithic site Mehrgarh near Quetta in Pakistan, which is on an ancient trade route between Afghanistan and the Indus Valley, dating all the way back to the 7th millennium BCE. They have also been found in Mesopotamian settlements dating to the 4th millennium BCE, and a Bronze Age site (3rd Millennium BCE) of Shahr-e Sukhteh which is in southeast Iran. A Lapis handled dagger, an inlaid bowl with Lapis, amulets and beads, eyebrows and beards of Lapis, were all found in the Royal Tombs of the Sumerian city-state of Ur (3rd Millennium BCE). 

    Lapis was also used to make seals and jewelry by the Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known works of literature, mentions Lapis Lazuli several times. Lapis was also the favorite stone of the Egyptians to use in their scarabs. Cleopatra used powdered lapis as eyeshadow. Jewelry made of Lapis was found at Mycenae, which proves relations between Myceneans, Egypt, and the East. Lapis Lazuli was known as sapphire during the late Middle Ages though it has nothing to do with the blue corundum variety of sapphire known today. Theophrastus, the Greek scientist, described it “the sapphirus, which is speckled with gold” which clearly describes lapis lazuli. All of the references to sapphire in the old testament of the Bible probably refer to lapis lazuli since the stone currently known as sapphire was not known until after the Roman Empire. 


Metaphysical Uses


    Lapis Lazuli has been one of the most popular stones in metaphysical stores for a long time, and for good reason. It has one of the most striking colors out of any of the semi-precious stones with its deep, almost fluorescent, indigo blue. Many specimens have bands of pyrite winding around like a river leading into itself. Because of its popularity you may already know that Lapis is one of the best crystals to use for anxiety and stress relief. If you’ve been around stones for a while you may also know, because of its color, lapis can be used in association with the third eye chakra or the Throat Chakra. The third eye essentially bridges the gap between reality and the spiritual realm. Though that may seem like an oversimplification, hopefully that definition will suffice for the purposes of this issue. Similar to some of the uses of labradorite, Lapis can help you go into other realms, perhaps even communicate with ascended masters, spirit guides, or ancestors who have passed on. It is therefore a kind of “magickal” stone, one that can take you places that you haven’t been before. Whether that occurs during your meditative rituals or sleep rituals (lucid dreaming), it is up to you. 

    Lapis is known as a stone of Royalty, wisdom, and truth. So it is one of deep introspection, thought, and reflection. A stone that can assist you in an enlightened spiritual path. This isn’t an endeavor to be taken lightly. The path you may begin with the help of this stone may lead you to a place from which you will never return. As frightening as that statement could be to you, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Because you may be in a place of deep, spiritual funk and the Lapis can help you find respite or even permanent escape from that funk. 

    One thing that is of utmost importance if you decide to meditate, especially with Lapis, is to take an honest stock of whatever your current state of mind. To thine own self be true about the level of spiritual wellness (or lack thereof) in which you currently dwell. If you aren’t honest with yourself about the reality of your situation, then you will never know where to truly begin and what steps to take in order to move in the right direction. To help you with this you can take hold of your piece of Lapis, take a long, deep breath and ask it to help clear your mind of all the chaos and replace it with serenity. Focus on the stone as you heed its advice on ascertaining your true position in the world today and what you can do in order to change it for the better. 

    The most difficult part of life sometimes is taking time to find your spiritual purpose. From the moment we move from adolescence into pre-adulthood society is pushing us to figure out what we want to do with our lives: Make money! Become fully self-supporting! Find the perfect job! Find the perfect mate, your soulmate! They never teach you how to find yourself. There’s never been a course in “finding your spiritual self” or “finding your divine purpose in life” taught in elementary, middle, or high school. At most, we hear the same cliches that have been passed on for decades only when we are at the point of struggling. Or we briefly see what we think is an utterly profound message posted on someone’s social media and just as quickly as we see it and hit the “like” button, move on to something else. You see them everyday and some people have their feed filled with them: “Never make someone a priority who sees you as an option”, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present”, “You can’t win today’s game on yesterday’s score”, “Harboring a resentment is like me drinking poison and hoping you die” (Boom, mic drop, right?). Sharing a profound message that someone else wrote on your timeline does not equal spiritual wellness. If we want to find a balance or spiritual wellness we have to search for it. And it’s usually when we are far past empty in our spiritual tank or at the lowest point in our lives. If we spent a little time focusing on the importance of this purpose sooner and at a younger age, we might be a little more prepared and suffer a little less when life’s road blocks, speed bumps, and hurdles came at us. This isn’t meant to be an indictment of anyone’s spiritual character reading this but rather society as a whole. It’s not our fault they didn’t focus on these things when we were growing up. But if you are reading this, you have probably been doing your own independent searching and healing.

    Use Lapis Lazuli to help you get out of your spiritual rut, increase your awareness, insight, and/or transform your spirit. Because lapis stimulates your Third Eye, it can be used to help with headaches and migraines. Place it on your forehead during your meditation or quiet time and take a deep breath. While you breathe in, imagine rays of light coming from the stone and penetrating your body with its healing energy. As you exhale, picture all of the negativity and bad energy flowing out of you like a river into the sea. The Lapis can be used in conjunction with other water stones like turquoise and sodalite (if you can fit all of them on your forehead).

And of course as always, if you've never purchased Lapis before (or even if you have and you'd like some more) come on in to any of our locations, show us this newsletter and receive 15% off your purchase of Lapis Lazuli. 

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