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Lapis Lazuli

Lapis, an ancient rock, is an aggregate of several minerals. The three major minerals that comprise lapis are lazurite, calcite, and pyrite. The rock can also contain lesser amounts of diopside, amphibole, feldspar, or mica. The golden, metallic-looking spots in lapis are pyrite, while calcite shows up as white flecks or streaks.

Although many people associate lapis with dark blue, it’s also found in other shades of blue, and even other hues. Its color can range from deep violet blue and royal blue to light blue to turquoise blue to a greenish blue. The combination of different minerals in the aggregate determines the color. For example, lazurite is responsible for producing the gem’s most prized color—bright royal blue, while a mineral called afghanite creates a pale blue shade.

Worldwide, lapis is mined in several areas. The traditional source of the finest lapis lazuli is the same today as it was thousands of years ago—the mountains of Afghanistan. Other major sources are Chile and Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. Minor sources are Angola, Canada, Colorado (US), and Pakistan.

Lapis is semitranslucent to opaque, with a waxy to vitreous luster. It has fair toughness, and its hardness ranges from 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, depending on the mix of minerals.