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The Lore of Lapis Lazuli, December's Birthstone

Mar 28, 2008
In the ancient world, lapis was considered as valuable as gold. Egyptians sent out legions of soldiers with traders for years to collect lapis for amulets, scarabs and for their high priests, who wore images of Mat, the goddess of truth around their necks.

The word, lapis-lazuli, comes from Latin. Lapis means stone; lazuli translates to blue. The Arabic word, L'azulaus means blue, heaven and sky. It has been mined continuously in Afghanistan for over six thousand years and is widely referenced in many ancient texts. Lapis is not widely referenced as a birthstone. However, the 1912 list of birthstones created by a jewelry trade group lists lapis as one of the gems. Regardless of whether it is considered a birthstone, lapis is a gem rich in history

In the third millennium, BC, Puabi, a Sumerian queen, dressed in a robe of lapis and gold. Innini, also known as Isthar, a Babylonian goddess of love and sex, traveled to the underworld wearing lapis. A powerful bull god had a lapis beard, and those carried the gem had the power of that god. (Kuntz p. 139-140)

In the middle ages lapis was mixed with oil to create an exquisitely intense blue paint which served as a pigment for illuminated manuscripts. Lapis was also used as for Tibetan tankas - the sacred iconographic chronology of deities which form the basis for visualizations during meditation practices.

Lapis was used in ceremonial robes of Hebrew patriarchies. An angel gave King Solomon a lapis ring to control demons. (Kuntz p. 139-140) The deep blue stone flecked with gold seems to in itself represent royalty. In Biblical times, the Ten Commandments are believed to have been inscribed on a lapis tablet. The stone has a long and varied associated with gods of truth, power and kings across cultural lines.

It is common in many traditional cultures to view the royalty as divine, or carrying out the Divine will. To be a righteous king in the classic sense implies an alignment with the Kingdom in the Biblical sense. Though there are references to lapis as a healing gem, particularly as a cure for depression or a weak heart, generally the richness and color of lapis in itself has been associated royalty and authority. Healing, then, from the perspective of lapis, is about having a strong heart, being grounded as the center of a kingdom, and coming into one's power.

Today, lapis is common, carried out of the mines of Afghanistan in tin trunks from which it is exported all over the world. Lapis was much more expensive decades ago than it is now. That the gem has become fairly easy to obtain does not diminish its beauty or its metaphysical value. Our association with the deep blue color of lapis is carried forth even today, for those wear the dark blue uniform, represent the law and the truth in context to leadership and community. The Kingdom can be your house hold, work place, or somewhere else, internal, untouched by the pettiness of human affairs. Lapis will meet you there.

References: Most of the historical content, myth and lore referenced in this article came from two books, both of which are in print and available on line:

George Frederick Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, New York; Dover Publications, Inc. 1913, 1971 edition.

Bruce Knuth, Gems In Myth, Legends And Lore; Parachute, Colorado, Jewelers Press, 2007.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company, that sells lapis and ethically sourced jewelry at www.artisanweddingrings.com. His company produces eco-friendly, conflict free diamond jewelry. Marc also authors www.fairjewelry.org supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.
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