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With its deep blue color and many believed spiritual powers, lapis lazuli has been an incredibly sought-after stone for thousands of years.
Derived from the Latin word for stone and the Persian word for blue, lapis lazuli is just that: a blue stone. Often referred to as simply lapis, this stone has had many uses over the centuries and is currently widely available in forms such as earrings, necklaces, rings, and even small sculptures.
When shopping for a piece of lapis lazuli, there are several things to take into consideration to ensure you get the best quality piece within your budget. Choosing the perfect piece for you can be daunting, but this shopping guide can help you in this process.
What is Lapis Lazuli?
Lapis lazuli is not a very hard stone hailing primarily from Afghanistan and the Middle East. Lapis lazuli is a combination of several different types of minerals.
- The first component is lazurite. Lazurite is the most prominent mineral contained in lapis and is responsible for the vibrant blue color of the stone.
- Calcite is another component and it is white in color. An abundance of calcite will appear as a white streak or thin line on the surface of the stone.
- The third component of lapis is pyrite. Pyrite is silver or gold in color and is responsible for the small shiny flecks often seen on the surface of lapis.
Mountainous regions of Afghanistan have an abundance of these minerals which makes it a perfect place to mine lapis in large amounts. The stone has also been discovered in regions of Pakistan, Russia, and Chile and in recent times, has been discovered in North America in the mountains of Colorado, California, and Canada.
Lapis ranges in colors from deep dark blue to blueish greens and violets. Traditionally and most ideally, lapis will be dark blue in color with very little to no visible inclusions of calcite and pyrite. These so-called perfect stones are most typically found in the mines of Afghanistan.
Finding a lapis without any visible calcite or pyrite inclusions, however, is nearly impossible so inclusions don’t necessarily bring down the value of the stone. Many people actually find that they desire the white streaks of calcite or the shimmering flecks of pyrite in their stones.
So now that we know more about lapis lazuli, let’s take a look at how to buy it.
Don’t Be Fooled
While lapis lazuli is not a rare stone, high-quality specimens can be hard to find. Most lapis on the market are natural, but you might come across imitation to enhanced material masquerading as the real thing.
1. Imitation Lapis Lazuli
Colored glass and plastics are commonly used to imitate lapis. These materials can be changed to mimic the appearance of the traditional dark blue speckled surface of authentic lapis.
If you are unsure if your lapis jewelry is authentic, a gemologist or high-end jeweler will give you an honest opinion. This isn’t always a feasible option, especially if lapis jewelry is not very valuable.
This is why it’s important to purchase from a reputable retailer with a proven track record. This way, you know that what you get is what it purports to be.
Always shop around before making a final decision. Doing your research is absolutely necessary when purchasing a piece of lapis.
2. Enhanced Lapis Lazuli
While lapis is generally not treated or enhanced, dying, waxing, and resin impregnation are sometimes done to enhance the color of lapis lazuli.
These methods can make a gemstone unstable and there is a possibility that the color enhancement will fade with time. Check with your vendor whether the stone has been treated in any way and avoid treated stones when possible.
Know What You Like
When it comes to lapis, the simpler the cut, the more the stone will exhibit its natural beauty. Typical cuts for lapis are round and oval, usually cut en cabochon.
Lapis is sometimes faceted but because it’s an opaque stone, faceting doesn’t add much in the way of light performance. Instead, it adds some depth and interest to the overall look of the stone.
Lapis lazuli only ranks at 5 to 5.5. on the Mohs scale, meaning that it’s quite a soft stone. While it doesn’t have the hardness of diamonds or sapphires, its softness means that cutters can get creative turning lapis into figurines and carvings which are used more often for household decorations rather than jewelry.
Lapis is often shaped into beads varying in size and shape. Lapis beads are common in jewelry and are often paired with other stones that are thought to carry a similar spiritual power as lapis. Lapis beads are used in bracelets and necklaces and is sometimes associated with healing and spirituality.
Lapis jewelry can suit a variety of styles, from boho and hippie to chic, avant-garde and modern. You’ll find wire-wrapped pendants, bead bracelets and dangle earrings that have a boho look, but when paired with diamonds or set in precious metals, lapis jewelry looks sophisticated and elegant.
It is always important to consider your lifestyle to determine the best piece and make it easy for you to fit the lapis jewelry into their lives.
Know Your Budget
Lapis Lazuli is a relatively affordable stone and you can find rough stones at very affordable prices.
However, rough lapis doesn’t have the glossy look that we’ve come to associate with lapis lazuli. Once lapis has been worked on, the price starts to rise.
The setting of lapis lazuli jewelry also adds to the overall cost of the stone. When set in gold or platinum and paired with other gemstones like diamonds or emeralds, lapis lazuli jewelry can cost thousands of dollars. The benefit of this is that there’s lapis lazuli pieces to suit everyone’s budget.
Choose stainless steel or silver for more affordable pieces. But if you have the extra cash, then you can’t beat the beauty of lapis in gorgeous gold settings.
Like many other gemstones, the 4Cs, cut, color, clarity and carat weight, are always good to be aware of when buying lapis too. Look for vivid blue lapis, with minimal impurities, a neat cut, and of a good size.
The origin of the stone can also add to the piece’s overall value.
Persian and Afghan stones are more valuable (due to their medium and uniform dark blue color and the absence of pyrite and calcite impurities) as compared to lapis lazuli from Russia and Serbia. The least valuable lapis comes from Chile as these stones often contain a large calcite matrix.
Know How to Care for Lapis Lazuli
Caring for your lapis is fairly straightforward and easy. To properly care for and clean your stone, simply wash it with warm water using mild dish soap.
Remember to dry the stone right away as the stone is porous and can absorb water. To protect your lapis, store it away from other gemstones because they can easily scratch one another. Be sure not to use harsh chemicals on lapis which could damage the color and quality.
If your stone is in a setting such as silver or gold, a simple over-the-counter cleaner will work to make caring for and cleaning your stone easy.
Understand the Symbolism of Your Stone
The basic spiritual properties of lapis are thought to be wisdom and truth. Many cultures also pair lapis with wealth and royalty, most likely stemming from its rarity and cost in ancient times and the fact that usually, only very wealthy people such as royals obtained lapis and its intense blue color.
Lapis is thought to produce a clear mind and aid the wearer in decision-making and leadership roles. Those passionate about constant learning and the pursuit of knowledge can benefit from wearing lapis. It is also said to help with communication.
Placing a small lapis sculpture in your home can positively encourage effective communication with the people in your home.
Wearing lapis can aid you in communicating with co-workers, friends, and the people whom you come into contact with throughout your day.
*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Where to Buy Lapis Lazuli
Lapis is fairly easy to find online. The only major challenge of shopping online is not being able to try the jewelry on first.
A good idea is to go through your own jewelry collection to get an idea of the length of a necklace, or the ring size you like so you have a better idea of what you are looking for.
Always make sure you are using a trusted site when buying online to avoid being scammed and remember to ask any questions you may have to the seller before making the commitment.
Educate yourself on the various options for cut, setting, and color to ensure you end up with a piece that makes you happy and enriches your life. No matter which piece you chose, lapis will serve its purpose as a stone that exhibits beauty, elegance, and wisdom in any form.
We recommend starting your search on the following platforms:
For unique, handmade, and artisan styles, Etsy has a lot to offer. You can find multiple independent boutiques here offering a wide range of lapis lazuli jewelry.
You’ll even find antique and estate pieces that cost thousands of dollars as well as modern, stylish pieces at affordable prices.
Each Etsy shop has its own policies so it might take some time to review all their details ahead of making a purchase, but that’s usually time well spent.
Amazon brings together different jewelry vendors who offer their products here. Again, there’s a wide range of lapis lazuli jewelry, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.
Use the site’s extensive rating and review sections to gauge the quality of each product.