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Lapis Lazuli Gemstones

What is Lapis Lazuli?

Lapis lazuli is a bright blue gemstone that has been popular since ancient times. It is a rock composed of a mixture of lazurite, calcite, pyrite and other silicates. The lazurite gives the rock its blue color so the more lazurite in the rock the higher the value. Stones with an even blue color are usually preferred over stones with abundant veins, inclusions or variegated color.

Lapis Lazuli Gemstones:

Lapis lazuli is an expensive material. The highest quality pieces are generally cut into cabochons, beads and carvings rather than being used to produce tumbled gemstones. It used in a variety of jewelry items but is not well suited for ring stones because of its softness and ease of fracture. It is often used to make small carvings or vases. Tumbled lapis or lapis beads are a very popular material for making necklaces. Lazurite has been crushed into a powder and used in paints, pigments and cosmetics.

Tumbled Lapis Lazuli:

Lapis lazuli has a hardness of between five and six. This expensive rough is best tumbled alone, without other materials, to avoid the overcutting that can occur with batches of mixed hardness. Lapis can be a challenge to grind and polish. Calcite areas within the rock tend to overcut and grains of pyrite can cause scratching. It is best to get some experience before working with this expensive material.

Lapis Lazuli rough
Rough Lapis Lazuli mined in Chile, South America. Image ©

More About Lapis Lazuli:

Lapis lazuli is a gemstone that is mentioned often in the Bible. This documents its long-standing popularity and value. Many uses of the word sapphire in the Bible are thought to actually be referring to lapis lazuli. Lapis is a porous material and is often dyed to improve its color. If you are interested in completely natural gemstones it is best to deal with trusted sellers who reveal any treatments done to the stone.

Lapis Lazuli Beads
Tumble-polished lapis lazuli beads. Image © iStockphoto / Robert Ellis.
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Lapis Lazuli Gemstone
Tumble-polished lapis lazuli with typical white-grey mottle and pyrite inclusions. Image © iStockphoto / Arpad Benedek.

Lapis Lazuli necklace
Lapis lazuli and turquoise beads in a necklace. Image © iStockphoto / Alexander Kuzovlev.

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