Friday, February 21, 2014

Lapis Lazuli

Two weeks ago I traveled to Tucson, Arizona for the 2014 Tucson Show. Every February the jewelry world travels to Tucson to participate in the 40+ shows that simultaneously go on during the same time period. It’s probably the biggest event of the year for anyone in the jewelry world, and that means artists, designers, vendors, and anyone in this realm can be found in Tucson during this time.

Now, I know my last post was about jewelry, and I try to keep my interests separate, but I had an eye opening moment while I was at the show. Ok, I actually had several eye opening moments, but I’ll only bore you with one. It was during my last day at the show, and I was walking the strip with one of my co-workers.

We were at the Tucson Showplace, and I saw that there was a giant pile of lapis rough (large lapis stones uncut and unpolished) in the parking lot surrounded by chicken wire. Now this wasn’t the first time I had seen a pile of rough during my week, but what really shocked me was knowing the value of the stone, knowing it has had a history since the ancient world, knowing this stone has been prized for centuries. And there it was, surrounded by chicken wire, next to a parked car. And that made me wonder, what is the full history of lapis lazuli?

Lapis has been cherished for over 5,000 years, and the stone played a crucial role in the Middle East where it was thought to have magical powers. The ancient Egyptians used it in statues, signent rings, and figures. In fact, the funeral mask for ‘King Tut’ was decorated with Lapis. It is my understanding that Alexander the Great brought the stone to Europe.

The stone’s name is closely associated with its intense color. The name was derived from the Latin word “lapis” meaning “stone”, and the Persian word “lazaward” which was the Persian name for lapis as well as the name of its mining location. Another source listed the Arabic word “Azula”, meaning blue, as a source of the name.

As it was 5,000 years ago, the best raw stones come from Hindu Kush in north-east Afghanistan. In fact, some of the areas originally mined in the ancient world are still mined today. The stone can also be found in Russia, and in the Chilean Andes.

So there you have it, the history of a stone (or what I could find of it), definitely worthy of more than a spot in the parking lot. Happy History!