A-Z of Gemstones: L

Posted on the 7th November 2016

A-Z of Gemstones: L: Lapis Lazuli


“Lapis Lazuli” is Latin for “blue stones” and they are one of the oldest gems used in jewellery.

Lapis has an unparalleled deep blue colour so unique that it has been used by artists as a paint pigment.

The stone is opaque and therefore usually cut as cabochons, beads or carvings.

The lustre of Lapis is waxy to vitreous; it rates 5-6 on the Mohs scale which makes it suitable for jewellery that has secure settings to protect the stone from scratching.

Lapis can be a uniform blue or it can contain gold-coloured flecks of pyrite or whitish calcite areas.

The main sources where lapis can be found are: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Chile.

The most common treatments for lapis to enhance the colour or to hide the whiter calcite areas are: dyeing, heating and impregnation.

The only synthetic stone that is similar to lapis is “Gilson Imitation Lapis” which does not have the same chemical properties as natural lapis and its value is lower so it should always be disclosed as synthetic.

Other materials that are most commonly used to imitate lapis are glass and plastic.

One of the oldest pieces of lapis jewellery ever found is a Mesopotamian pendant with a drilled elongated lapis stone, dated at 2900 BC.