Few gemstones equal the extensive and passionate history of lapis lazuli. Although found in many locations throughout the world, the Badakhshan province of northern Afghanistan offers the finest quality.
Lapis is from the Latin word for "stone," and the names lazuli or lazurite derive from the Persian "lazhuward" and Latin "lazulum," which both mean blue or heaven. The full name "lapis lazuli" is often shortened to lapis. Historically, this gemstone was among the first used to create jewelry. The stone displays vibrant blues and intense shades of sapphire, with a deep and glowing depth - not shiny. Lapis lazuli has a varying composition made up of 25 to 40 percent lazurite, plus several other minerals (sodalite, hauyne, calcite, and pyrite) that influence the color and its distribution.
One of the finest sources for lapis lazuli is the Sar-e-Sang deposit in Afghanistan's remote Badakhshan district. This mine is one of the oldest in the world and has been producing continuously for more than 7,000 years. While other deposits of lapis are known, none outshine the quality of stone from the Afghan mine.
This remarkable gemstone can also be found in Chile, where the material is frequently heavily mottled with calcite. Small amounts are also mined in Colorado, near Lake Baikal in Siberia, and in Myanmar's Mogok Stone Tract. Gemstones from the Sar-e-Sang deposits are considered rare and valuable.