Lapis Lazuli has been loved since antiquity for its intense, vibrant cobalt blue color. It can be flecked with either white or gold (calcite or pyrite).
A metamorphic rock, mainly composed of the mineral Lazurite, it usually originates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia or Chile. It is also mined, to a lesser extent, in Italy, Mongolia, the United States, and Canada.
Below you will find some of the many applications for Lapis Lazuli in antique and vintage jewelry:
Lapis Lazuli is also one of the principal stones used on Italian Pietre Dure (micro-mosaics).
The Georgians and the Victorians, with their passion for acrostic jewelry (‘The Language of Stones’) used Lapis Lazuli to represent the letter ‘L’ for ‘Love’.
Cameo and Intaglio
Many beautiful examples can be found of Lapis Lazuli used in cameo and intaglio.
Arts & Crafts
The Arts & Crafts movement designers favored Lapis Lazuli as the stone fitted in with their ‘beauty before perceived value’ philosophy.
Art Deco Jewellery designers prized Lapis Lazuli as it suited their vibrant, bold styles.
Cartier stands out as a design company who loved to use Lapis Lazuli during the Art Deco era.
There are four other stones that can be mistaken for Lapis Lazuli and should be watched out.
- Dyed Jasper or Howlite. It will have a cobalt blue color but will not show the white or golden patches. (Known as ‘Swiss Lapis’).
- Sodalite, which is one of the components of Lapis Lazuli, looks similar but the color is much paler.
- There is a synthetic spinel which also imitates Lapis Lazuli. (Known as ‘Gilson Lapis’). This looks very similar but does not have the same random patterns shown in natural Lapis Lazuli.
- Azurite is not as hard and has a darker tint.
Tip: To see if a stone has been dyed, try removing the color with acetone.
Lapis Lazuli has, of course, been used as a paint pigment since the late Middle Ages and has been a favorite of many of the great artists. This beautiful painting by Vermeer showcases not only Lapis Lazuli as a paint pigment but also a style of pearl earring from the era.
It is highly recommended that only you purchase antique and vintage jewelry from a recognized dealer.