Lapis: What an uncomfortable journey..
The Egyptian pharaohs, 5500 years ago, used the Lapis Lazuli to adorn themselves, while the Chinese, 3000 years ago, used it for the construction of statuettes. On the other side of the world, before the landing of Christopher Columbus, the civilizations of North America collected it and considered it a source of long health.
The midnight blue color, which suggests deep tranquility, actually has a history full of conflicts, dangers and hardships. In the past, in Mesopotamia, in Rome and in Greece, Lapis Lazuli was more appreciated and expensive than other blue stones such as Sapphire and Turquoise.
Badakhshan, a province of Afghanistan, is a forbidding expanse of bare mountains of any vegetation; the mountains rise up to 5000m and are littered with dangers: human beings come there only for the blue treasure that is the Lapis Gemstone quality. This region, currently called Bactria, continues to produce Lapislazzuli exactly as it did in the days of Marco Polo (1271), who had described several caravans moving towards that inhospitable area in which he himself had not dared to enter.
The Lapis Lazuli as well as for its rich blue, is well valued for the millennial history. Etymologically, the word lapis lazuli derives from the Latin word lapis and from the Latin word “lazulum”. Finally, the latter derives from the Persian word lazward, which meant blue.
Lapis Gemstone: What an uncomfortable journey..
In addition to the traditional source in Afghanistan, we find two other important sources: Chile and Siberia (Lake Baikal).
The demand for this stone is always stable, prices are cheap and there is a good supply. People are attracted by the history of the Lapis; the most knowledgeable know that to get into the jewelry store that stone has made an impervious journey.
It takes ten days of travel full of pitfalls to get out of the remote Afghan mines through steep and winding paths. The mines are connected by ancient and narrow passages. Miners use dynamite without adequate precautions; many were the dead due to collapses caused by the improper use of dynamite. Dynamite also destroys so many raw materials.
Incredible is the load of charm that a legendary Gemstone like the Lapis Lazuli carries with it.
Lapis Lazuli variety
Afghans use precise terminologies to divide the Lapis qualities; with Nili they mean the highest quality with the best indigo color, with Asmani they mean a light blue Lapis similar to the Chambray Denim color and with Sabzi they mean a Lapis Gemstone with strong green shades. Tomas Milian, to describe the Lapis to Bombolo, used very different terminologies, but it does not seem nice to insert them in this Gemology context.