Blue Lapis

One of the oldest gems to be known to humans, Lapis Lazuli was found by archaeologists in various excavations along the Mediterranean region. Egypt, Persia and Greece were probably the first few lands to be introduced to lapis gemstones. Numerous signets, scarabs and other lapis carvings have been found in and around these lands. The deep blue color of lapis lazuli gems prompted early men to call it 'ultramarine', which basically meant 'beyond the oceans' or rather, deeper than the color of the oceans.

The interesting thing about the name lapis lazuli is that it combines, words from Latin and Arabic. The word Lapis means 'stone' in Latin, and the word 'Azula' which is borrowed from Arabic means 'blue'. In the days before synthetic paints were developed, blue lapis stones were ground to a fine powder and used to make paints. Some of the ancient paintings today preserved in museums are proof of this. The colors of these blue lapis paintings are still bright and lively after many decades. Restoration of some of these pieces of art are even today done with special paints made from blue lapis powder.

If you observe blue lapis gems, there are some very interesting features. The blue color of the gem is brought about by the presence of blue lazurite. You can often see whitish patches or streaks in the gem, these are composed of calcite. You will also notice some fine golden specks on the stone, these were until recently believed to be gold. It is now known that they are infact pyrite and not gold. Some gem lovers compare the flashing pyrite specks to stars on a deep blue sky! You might come up with an interesting observation after seeing a few blue lapis gems, these stones are quite often a deep uniform blue color and show no specks or white patches. Infact many jewelry buyers insist on getting a blue lapis gem stone with a dark blue color, nothing else visible on the stone. This might be possible if you are talking about a small blue lapis gem like a 4mm to 6mm gem. Unfortunately most blue lapis gemstone jewels use gems that are 10mm or larger. If you find a uniform color for such a blue lapis, it is has either been dyed to obtain that color or is a fake.

You can ofcourse get blue lapis stones that have few specks or very little white portions, but an absolutely clean and uniform blue is very unlikely. You might want to avoid blue lapis gemstones that have large patches of white, such high presence of calcite detracts from the beauty of the lapiz lazuli gem. There is a color variation of the blue lapis gemstone that is called 'denim lapis'. This is interesting especially after we mentioned that, a high presence of calcite in lapis lazuli reduces the beauty of the gem. In this case, the calcite is more or less uniformly distributed through the lapis. Rather than appear as white streaks or patches, the calcite reduces the saturation or depth of the blue color. Gem manufacturers based their marketing campaign on the fact that, such blue lapis lazuli comes near to the color of blue denim! Chile is one country where the toned down color of blue lapis is often found, denim lapis has today almost become a brand on it's own.

Since lapis is an opaque gemstone, it is cut in smooth cabachon form or simple step cut. Faceting a blue lapis gem cannot do much as far as light reflection is concerned, it might just enhance the external appearance of the gem. While on the issue of cutting blue lapis gemstones, we could talk about why many gem cutters close their nose when cutting lapis lazuli rough! The heat created by the cutting wheel, reacts with the small sulphur content present in the lapis and this can give out a pungent stench. The smell ofcourse does not remain beyond the cutting stage, you will therefore not be treated to that when you wear your lapis jewel!

Though lapiz lazuli gems are opaque, it is not advisable to cut them very thin. This might save you on stone weight but, it will also make the stone prone to cracking or chipping. So make sure that the normal proportions to which stones are cut is also maintained for lapis stones. At the same time, do not get a stone that will bulge too much out of the gold or silver mount. A high profile gem (with reference to dimensions) is more likely to get scratched, chipped or broken by physical impact. You will therefore need to strike a balance between too thin and too thick, your jeweler can hopefully assist you in making the right decision.

Talking about the hardness and durability of blue lapis lazuli gems, the stone measures 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. This is about average and it means that, you should not wear your lapis jewelry throughout the day and night. The gem is also quite porous and should therefore not be soaked in water or other solvents. Gem treatments have been developed to increase the toughness of lapis lazuli gemstones. We will discuss them in the subsequent paragraph.

When it comes to treatments used for blue lapis lazuli gem stones, it is important to understand the importance and objective of these treatments. Since lapis lazuli has slight porosity in it's natural form, a waxing process is applied after the final cut and polish is complete. This treatment helps 'seal' the pores and thereby increases the durability of the stone. While this is an acceptable form of treating blue lapis lazuli gems, the wax used should ideally be colorless. Using colored waxes to enhance the color of the gem is not considered to be a normal form of treatment. We mentioned earlier that blue lapis is sometimes dyed to give it a uniform blue color. This eliminates the visibility of the white calcite portions and can even cover the small golden specks of pyrite. If you insist on getting a blue lapis gem with a very even and uniform color spread, a dyed lapis is what you will most likely end up with.

Caring for blue lapis gems or jewelry with blue lapis stones, is quite easy once you understand the properties of the stone mentioned in this report. While it is not advisable for any jewel or gem to be impacted with force, the modest 5 to 6 hardness of lapiz lazuli gem stones require that you be a bit more careful. The porosity of blue lapis gems and subsequent wax coating (done often) means that, you should not let a blue lapis stone soak in water or other solvents. The gem does not like heat sources and should not be left out in the sun for long hours. Do not use steam or ultrasonic cleaners to clean your blue lapis lazuli gemstones. If you need to clean a lapis lazuli gem stone jewel, use some cool water a very mild soap and a soft brush to do the job. Make sure that the jewel does not hit against the water tap or wash basin.