Lapis Lazuli, sometimes referred to simply as Lapis, is a semi-precious stone highly valued for its remarkably deep colour of almost indigo blue. This is a stone whose most important ingredient is lazurite. Lapis Lazuli also contains silicate and calcite. Lazurite is a feldspathoid silicate mineral. Feldspathoid minerals are a group which resembles the feldspar group, which includes the mineral Labradorite. These tectosilicate groups of interesting crystals include a large quantity of minerals with very deep and dense colours.
The deep blue colour seen in this semi-precious stone is due to S3 — a radical anion within the mineral itself. An anion is a negative ion formed from atoms, when electrons leave the atom’s electronic tread, and enter another one, thus making the anion.
Lapis Lazuli was known even in earliest ages of the world. This stone was mined as early as the seventh millennium BC in Afghanistan, but it was also found in Mauritania.
This incredible stone was even used in forging the funeral mask of King Tutankhamen, used to craft the eyebrows. If we look at all the items in which Lapis was found and used, we can conclude that even people in ancient times used this stone with absolutely minimal scientific knowledge of it.
Lapis Lazuli had a wide array of artistic uses throughout the course of history. Some examples include a Mesopotamian Lapis pendant, believed to be forged in 2900 BC and a beautiful Lapis bowl found in Iran, forged in the second millennium BC. The Egyptians valued this remarkable stone for its beauty and used it in previously undiscovered ways. The eyes of the sculpture of King Ebis the Second, were crafted from Lapis.
Metalwork from this period is regarded as the highest quality craftsmanship of the Mesopotamian period. The “Treasure of Ur,” produced some of the most elaborate and accomplished pieces of jewelry from the Ancient Near East. This is obviously a piece of singular, outstanding quality. Its inventiveness and craftsmanship, however, can be found in many other pieces more readily available for sale.
The lion-headed eagle was called a imdugad, and was considered a lower-level divinity in Sumerian religion. In this piece, the gold head was attached to the lapis lazuli body with tiny copper nails and bitumen (a petroleum product with the consistency of tar). The wings are also made of lapis lazuli. They are meticulously etched with details of the feathers. The pendant is inscribed with the name “Messanapada of Ur,” who may have been the artist or the patron. (P.R.S. Moorey,Materials and Manufacture in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Evidence of Archaeology and Art, British Archaeological Reports, Oxford University Press, 1985).
Pendant, eagle with lion’s head; gold, lapis lazuli, copper, 12.8 cm high; 11.9 cm wide;
excavated at the Palace of Mari, “Treasure of Ur,” Early Dynastic Period IIIb, ca. 2500 B.C.,
National Museum of Syria, Damascus. credits to http://www.antiquitiesexperts.com/
In the Dark Ages, Lapis Lazuli was transported to Europe, where it was powdered and made into one of the most excellent and priciest blue pigments — ultramarine. If we look at all the items in which Lapis was found and used, we can conclude that even people in ancient times used this stone with absolutely minimal scientific knowledge of it. Later in history, Lapis Lazuli was used in the Baroque and Renaissance periods, for attiring the central figure in paintings. The famous Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) by Johannes Vermeer was painted using ultramarine, a natural pigment made from lapis lazuli.
Today, larger mining cites are Afghanistan, Russia, Canada, the USA and numerous locations.
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