Lapis Lazuli was very highly regarded by the gods and kings since ancient times and prized more than its weight in gold.

Lapiz Lazuli derives its name from the Latin word LAPIS meaning "stone" and the Arabic-Spanish AZUL meaning "blue".

Its chemical formula is made up of sodium calcium aluminum silicate and comes in colors such as vivid dark blue, violet and greenish-blue. Nonetheless, since ancient times, Lapis Lazuli has been cherished as the original blue stone.

Lapiz Lazuli always come with inclusions of white calcite or golden pyrite; those with golden flecks of pyrite are more valuable whereas stones with streaks of white calcite is less prized.

The deepest blue, violet blue or indigo blue with few inclusions are rare therefore the most valuable.

Lapiz Lazuli was first found in the valley of Afghanistan in the 7th millennium BC. Today Afghanistan remains the primary source of good quality Lapis Lazuli. Other countries that mine the stones are Chile, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Other sources include Lake Baikal in Russia, Baffin Island in Canada as well as parts of the USA, Myanmar, and Europe (though of lower quality and quantity). Lapiz Lazuli is also found in China, Tibet and Siberia.

Lapiz Lazuli is a rock that has accumulated minerals such as: Lazurite (also known as Hauyne), Pyrite, Calcite, Feldspar, Mica, Diopside And Sodalite. In order to be called a Lapis Lazuli, it needs to be at least 25% Lazurite. The presence of Sulphur in lazurite gives lapis lazuli its deep blue color. Chilean and Denim Lapis are Lapis with lighter blue and more white streaks of calcite.

Lapis Lazuli has a hardness of 5 to 6 on Mohs hardness scale. It has a glass-like, waxy to dull luster. It may have a strong white, orange and copper color fluorescence or undertones.

Lapis Lazuli was one of the earliest commodities to be traded in the Harappan civilisation around 3000 BC. It travelled to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Sumeria, Greece and Rome.

In one of the oldest cities ever discovered, Ur in Sumeria (present day Iraq), 6000 artifacts and ornaments made from lapis lazuli were excavated. These included elaborate jewelries, tools like spears and axes and even musical instruments. The Standard of Ur which was dated to be 4700 years old was uncovered in a royal tomb. This was a hollow box depicting scenes of war and was inlaid with mosaics of lapis lazuli.

The myth of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, spoke of her descent and return from the underworld wearing her finest clothes and a necklace made of Lapis Lazuli. She was also bearing a rod made of the same precious stone.

The world's oldest epic poem "The Epic of Gilgamesh" written in 2100 BC on clay tablets was uncovered in the city of Ur. It made several mention of Lapis.

The Ishtar Gate at Babylon which was constructed in 575 BCE, had wall bricks glazed with Lapis Lazuli, a stone that was very revered in ancient Babylon.

Ancient Babylonians, as well as Assyrians and Egyptians used Lapiz Lazuli for their sacred amulets and cylinder seals. The tombs of Egyptian mummies were decorated with Lapiz Lazuli. One of the best-known ornaments was the death mask of King Tutankhamun who reigned in 1332–1323 BC. His inner coffin and gold mask were inlaid with Lapis Lazuli.

Over in ancient China, Lapiz Lazuli or Liu-Li was used in the ceremonies of the Temple of Heaven. Chinese emperors were fond of wearing this precious stone and offered it to the King of the Universe.

Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, St Petersburg, Russia was adorned with Lapiz Lazuli which was the symbol of Russia during her reign.

Peter Carl Faberge also used Lapiz Lazuli on many of his famous egg sculptures created for the Russian Czars between 1885 and 1917.

In the Kizil caves in western china dated 300 BC, the blue pigment used in painting the Buddhist murals on the walls was found to be Ultramarine, that is, powdered Lapiz Luzuli, from Afghanistan.

Cleopatra the queen of Egypt, wore a deep blue eye shadow with gold-colored pyrite flecks which was made from ground Lapis Lazuli stone.

This pigment is called Ultramarine and it was used by major Renaissance artists like Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Starry Night by Van Gogh, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer and Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian have been painted with ultramarine. Michelangelo also used it to paint the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome. Due to its intense blue and great value, it was often reserved for depicting the robes of Angels or the Virgin Mary.

As mentioned, Lapis Lazuli was prized more than its weight in gold. According to lore, Michelangelo couldn’t afford ultramarine. His painting, The Entombment, was left unfinished as the result of his failure to procure the prized pigment. Vermeer was rumoured to be bankrupted by the high prize of ultramarine.

The pigment was so prized that in 1824 a French society offered a reward for 6000 francs to develop a synthetic alternative and French ultramarine was created. However, traditionalists still preferred the original ultramarine because of its natural inclusions that transmit light in subtly different ways.

The brilliant blue Lapis with twinkling flecks of gold has fascinated civilizations across the world. It is the shaman's stone since ancient times. The ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and so forth all realized its spiritual value and used it as such. Lapis Lazuli was made into amulets and talismans and was the stone of choice to adorn the burial chambers of the high priests and kings of ancient times.

Lapis Lazuli was called the Stone of Heaven because magicians of old said that the stone was reminiscent of a sky full of stars. It was considered a piece of heaven given to men by the gods.

Lapis Lazuli is a very spiritual stone. The Sumerians believed that the spirit of their gods lived within the stone. It is strongly believed that it calls man towards the infinite, awakening him to the higher consciousness. The Egyptian Book of the Dead recognised it as the amulet of inestimable power.

The ancient people also used Lapis Lazuli for its medicinal properties. Its powder was mixed with milk and applied as a dressing for boils and ulcers. The ancient Romans believed that Lapis was a powerful aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to keep the body and soul healthy from all ills and fear.

Lapis Lazuli has been used to treat depression and mental illness. It was also used to relieve fever and to strengthen eyesight and the heart.

Since the earliest of times, Lapis Lazuli has been associated with strength and courage, royalty and wisdom, intellect and truth. It is believed to bring luck in all matters of life in love, business and family.

Lapis Lazuli is quite porous therefore it should not be soaked in water. Soaps and household cleaning chemicals can damage this precious stone. Constant exposure to heat can result in fading of its magnificent ultramarine blue color.