ROCK TRIVIA: LAPIS LAZULI Lapis is a deep blue semi-precious stone prized since antiquity for its beautiful color. Lapis is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley in northeastern Afghanistan. The mountain faces are high as 17,000 feet, the ravines are dangerously deep. The mining is done by hand and only in the more temperate times of the year. This area has been mined since 700 BC, and these mines are still producing today. The Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years.This area produced the lapis for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the Greeks and Romans. Lapis is most probably what is called Sapphire in the Old Testament and is most likely the fifth stone in the original breastplate of the High Priest. The sarcophagus of King Tutankhamen was inlaid with Lapis. It was used for scarabs and other jewelry, and ground into powder for dyes, eye shadow and medicinal elixirs. At the end of the Middle Ages, Lapis made its way to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into a blue pigment called ultramarine. It was used by artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, often for the clothing of important figures of paintings, especially the Virgin Mary.
A sample from the Sar-i Sang mine in Afghanistan, picture By Didier Descouens