Monday, January 04, 2010

A Short History of Lapis


Lapis

Part of the large shipment of beads we just received included lapis beads. The correct name for lapis is lapis lazuli and it’s not a mineral but a rock composed of lazulite, calcite, and pyrite (and some other minor minerals). It has been used in jewelry for over 6,000 years making it one of the oldest gemstones known.


The main source for lapis is in the rugged mountains of the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan. This is not the only location for lapis around the world but it is by far the best. Chile, Russia, and Colorado have produced significant quantities good quality lapis but never of the grade as Afghanistan. California, Canada, Taiwan,

The Taliban and other similar groups have controlled the mountains where lapis comes from. They have used the sale of lapis (and other gemstones found from those mountains like emeralds and aquamarines) to fund their organizations for over 200 years. (Please note we do not fund the Taliban with modern purchases of Lapis, the mines were seized by the United States Government and given back to the people in Afghanistan as part of a project to increase the economy and well-fare of the people.)

It is difficult to get lapis to take a good polish by tumbling so it is hand polished. Large pieces have been obtained for carving including a 10.5 foot high vase on display in the Hermitage museum in Russia.

We don’t have anything like that in our store, but we do have some beads from the highest gem-grade lapis available from Afghanistan. Come in and check them out!

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