Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lap up the Compliments When You Wear Lapis!

Lapis lazuli is one of the world's most coveted gemstones.  It is all mined from only a few places on earth, Afghanistan being the first and best known source.  It has been mined and worked into paint pigments, settings for rings, beads for bracelets, earrings, necklaces and mixed with metal for enameling  metal jewelry.   It was also used to carve ritual symbols or signature stamps.  Here is an example of a very weathered piece of ancient lapis lazuli that was mined some time around 2500 B.C.  and worn as an amulet or perhaps an ID badge of sorts.  The Bactrian society that produced the stone appeared not to have an alphabet, so used dots and figures engraved in stone or cast in bronze or copper as signature stamps or seals.

Bactrian Stone Amulet from Ancient Central Asia Bronze Age Culture  at CraftsofthePast


Lapis is ground to a powder to make the most beautiful ultramarine blue for painters.  Anyone who paints oceanscapes or marine life such as this artist is likely to have used a paint made into ultramarine blue by the lapis lazuli pigment.  Here is an example of such paintings: 

Orcas 3x3 original tiny painting marine life art killer whales  by KanweieneaKreations



Lapis lazuli comes in different grades, the bluer used for more expensive jewelry pieces.  But the sodalite, which is the palest blue, is a very attractive and decorative bead.  I will illustrate the difference here with my own creations, in order not to offend another artisan by mentioning the grade of the lapis lazuli she/he has used.  

The blue stones on this necklace were classified by the bead dealer as AAA lapis lazuli: 

Lapis Lazuli High Grade Nugget Bead Necklace with Lapis Silver Pendant  by facingEASTdesigns at CraftsofthePast


I don't find the necklace in the photo below any less appealing than the one above.  They are both made of beautiful components; the necklace in the picture below is a C grade lapis lazuli, but the pendant is an antique silver embossed with the Persian silver peacock symbol.  Both the lapis lazuli and the pendant are from Afghanistan, where I lived for two years.  

Old Persian Peacock Symbol Motif on Silver Pendant with Lapis Lazuli by facingEASTdesigns at CraftsofthePast


Another purchase I made while I was in Afghanistan is this lovely small translucent marble box inlaid with lapis wings on a beautiful humming bird.  The humming bird's wings  would probably be considered an AA grade lapis lazuli: 

Handmade Marble Jewelry Box with Silver and Lapis Hummingbird Mosaic  offered by CraftsofthePast


I mentioned that lapis lazuli is ground to a fine powder and mixed with metal in order to enamel metal such as we see in this butterfly made of brass: 

Enameled Blue Butterfly Large Pendant Foil Lined Glass Beaded Necklace  by facingEASTdesigns at CraftsofthePast




I have found among my artisan friends' studios an example of a beautifully designed necklace with a quality stone called denim lapis.  Whether you prefer an ultramarine blue or an almost pale lilac tinged stone in the range of lapis lazuli shades of blue, I know you will agree with me on this denim lapis necklace: 

Southwestern Denim Lapis Gemstone Sterling Necklace and Earring Set  by DianesDangles


I hope you have enjoyed reading about this exquisite and durable gemstone.  Please visit my web site at CraftsofthePast after you comment on the blog, of course.  




18 comments:

  1. Fascinating post, Anna. I especially love the lapis that is shot through with pyrite - reminds of a dark blue desert night sky with stars. Wonderful examples, yours and the other artists featured. Peace and joy . . . Catherine

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  2. I like that kind, too, though the highest value is in the flat deep blue lapis with no inclusions. Usually only found in small settings for rings, earrings or pendants.

    Thanks for the comment.
    anna

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  3. Lapis is one of my favorite gemstones and I agree that it doesn't matter if it's AAA ultramarine or the muted tones of C grade; it's all beautiful and worthy of being used in designs. Thank you, Anna, for sharing with us the very interesting history of this wonderful and mysterious stone.

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    1. Thank you, Dawn for your comment, and for the beautiful things you create with stone, metal and paint.

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  4. Wonderful items and thank you for sharing the history of the lapis lazuli. It is such a beautiful gemstone.

    Thank you for including my mini painting in your post.

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  5. I like lapis a lot. LOVE the hummingbird box!

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  6. I didn't realize that lapis powder was used to make ultramarine pigments. I use dark ultramarine blue in some of my artisan soaps for blue coloring. Whatever the shade of blue, the lapis gemstone is beautiful!

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  7. The practice of using lapis for ultramarine paint began in ancient Egypt to create the tomb wall paintings and the 'enameled' funeral masks of the dead royalty.
    Anna

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  8. Thank you for sharing. I didn't know lapis was ground to powder for painters. A lot of beautiful items.

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  9. So many beautiful lapis items. Thank you, Anna, for sharing.

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  10. Thanks to all for stopping by and commenting!

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  11. I never knew that sodalite was a variety of lapis! I did know that ultramarine blue was traditionally made from the stone though - one reason it's called 'ultramarine' was because, for Europeans, it had to be imported from 'beyond' (ultra) 'the sea' (marine).

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  12. Thanks for the explanation of the source of the word. I learned the relationship between the two stones at a lecture I attended in Kabul. It was given by the minister of Mining and Resources, or some such title. It was fascinating. Hooked me on all grades and shapes of lapis!
    Anna

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  13. Excellent! Like Michelle, I had no idea that my sodalite was an offspring of lapis. I feel rich now :) Thank you for this amazing post that is so informational. I am not used to working with gemstones, so I do not know much about them, other than I do have my favorites. Lapis is a pretty stone that can be mimicked through polymer clay, gold leaf and flecks of mica.

    Great post!

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    1. Yes, Julie, thanks to you, I have the tutorial for mimicking lapis in the art clay medium. I found it on the Pinterest board you directed me to ;)
      Anna

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  14. Such rich information Anna! I learned many things today from your post. Thank you for sharing. I am in love with the finds you posted in this post. Lapis is one of my all time favorites to make Tree of Life pendants with :)

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  15. Those Trees of Life you make are astounding pieces of workmanship, Jennifer. My favorite is the apple tree with all the fallen apples ;) Soooooo beautiful.
    Anna

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