Many people are drawn to the mysterious deep blue of lapis lazuli, or lapis for short. It is one of the oldest "spiritual" stones, first mined six thousand years ago in Afghanistan—the finest stones still come from that area. Its name comes from the Latin word lapis, meaning "stone," and the Arabic word azul, which means "blue." In addition, it has been noted the Persian word lazhward means blue and could possibly be another origin of the name. But whatever its origin, lapis is a wonderful stone rich in folklore and metaphysical tradition.
Before you buy a piece of lapis, it's useful to know something about its content to ensure you obtain a good quality specimen. Lapis is a rock consisting mostly of the mineral lazurite and commonly contains pyrite and calcite, among other minerals. It sometimes has a greenish or violet tint and the presence of pyrite often creates lovely metallic sparkles on the surface. Calcite sometimes produces white streaks in the stone. Well-formed crystals of pure lazurite are rare and valuable. Lazurite is sometimes confused with lazulite but they are different minerals; lazurite is softer and lighter. In addition, azurite is very similar in color to lapis, but is also a different mineral that is associated with malachite. Sodalite is a similar blue stone, but it lacks the occurrence of pyrite. Varieties of Chilean lapis contain more calcite; the Afghanistan variety contains pyrite and is more highly prized.
Lapis has been used in ornamental decoration for thousands of years. The Egyptians crushed it and used it to decorate their eyelids. It was also ground and used for paint. In Egypt lapis was used mainly by royalty and priests, and it is believed that the sapphire referred to in the Bible was actually lapis lazuli. Lapis is often worn as talismans and used in inlaid work and ornaments. The Romans believed it was an aphrodisiac.
Lapis is associated with the astrological signs of Sagittarius and Libra and the planets of Neptune and Venus. Reputed to be a stone for teachers, lapis has many useful magical properties. It has been referred to as a stone of awareness and wisdom and may be used to enhance creativity. Its gift of insight is useful in divination—it is useful to keep a small piece of lapis with Tarot decks—and lapis aids in understanding and psychic work. Other areas of use include the throat and brow chakras, overcoming depression and balancing yin and yang energies. Lapis is a protective stone, both from physical danger and psychic attacks.
Lapis is probably most well-known metaphysically for its use to promote psychic awareness. To aid in achieving meditative states such as trance and other altered states of consciousness, hold a piece of lapis in your hand to accompany visualization or whatever other technique you prefer. Or you can use the stone as a focal point and concentrate on its deep blue color.
Lapis Lazuli is fairly soft, so it should not be soaked in water for a long period of time. After cleansing, dry the stone immediately. Also take care if you wear lapis jewelry and remove it before swimming. Lapis is an expensive stone but good quality small pieces can be found for just a few dollars. Visit rock and gem shops or check with local geology clubs or rock and mineral organizations. With its striking beauty and metaphysical properties, lapis is an essential stone for any collection.