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Lapis Lazuli

Lapis is a beautiful rock; an aggregate of several minerals, mainly lazurite, calcite, and pyrite.

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Intense color

Even, deep blue color is typical of the most desirable lapis.

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Golden flecks

Tiny golden flecks of pyrite complement the gem’s appearance.

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The tablet cut is a popular cut style for lapis lazuli jewelry.

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Large areas of bright royal blue make this specimen appealing.

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Calcite Streaks

Streaks of calcite can detract from the stone’s value.

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Sparkling pyrite inclusions are appreciated by many lapis consumers.

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About Lapis Lazuli

About Lapis Lazuli

This 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. Lazurite is the ingredient responsible for producing the gem’s most prized color—bright royal blue.

Lapis Lazuli Description

Lapis Lazuli History and Lore


Lapis was treasured by the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome.


Golden flecks of pyrite create a sparkle in lapis lazuli.

Marco Polo

In 1271, Marco Polo described ancient Bactria’s lapis mines.


  • Mineral: Rock
  • Chemical composition: An aggregate
  • Color: Greenish blue to violetish blue
  • Refractive index: 1.500, sometimes 1.670
  • Birefringence: None
  • Specific gravity: 2.75 (+/- 0.25)


There are a number of processes used to alter the color, apparent clarity, or improve the durability of gems.

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Some gemstones have synthetic counterparts that have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties, but are grown by man in a laboratory.

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Any gem can be imitated—sometimes by manmade materials or by natural materials chosen by man to impersonate a particular gem.

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gem love

Why We Love This Gemstone

Exquisite color

From ancient times to the present, many civilizations have prized lapis lazuli for its exquisite deep blue color.

6,500 years

Scholars of ancient civilizations believe that the link between man and lapis lazuli stretches back beyond 6,500 years.


Renaissance painters used lapis to make “ultramarine” blue, an expensive pigment of unrivaled brightness and stability.

Quality Factors

Lapis lazuli is valued for its dark blue to violetish blue color.


quality factors

The gem’s most-prized color is a uniform dark blue to violetish blue, without any visible calcite.


quality factors

Top-quality lapis can display small, attractively distributed, gold-colored flecks of pyrite.


quality factors

Lapis is typically cut into cabochons, beads, inlays, or tablets.

Carat Weight

quality factors

Lapis rough can be large enough to fashion into decorative carvings.

Lapis Lazuli Quality Factors: The Comprehensive Guide


Explore sources, gemological research, and the role of gems in history.

A Status Report on Gemstones from Afghanistan

Gary W. Bowersox , Dec 1, 1985 Read Article

Lapis-Lazuli from Sar-E-Sang, Badakhshan, Afghanistan

Jean Wyart, Pierre Bariand and Jean Filippi , Dec 1, 1981 Read Article

Lapis Lazuli from the Coquimbo Region, Chile

Robert R. Coenraads and Claudio Canut de Bon , Mar 1, 2000 Read Article

Contemporary Intarsia: The Medvedev Approach to Gem Inlay

James Elliott , Dec 1, 1986 Read Article