Lapis lazuli: a piece of heaven on earth

The Hazel Tree

If the ancient gods had a favourite gemstone, it’s likely to have been lapis lazuli.  Few precious stones have a history that goes back so far, with so many exquisite carvings and artefacts to show for it.

Lapis 1Lapis lazuli takes its name from ‘lapis’ (in Latin, ‘stone’) and the Old French ‘azur’ which is derived from ‘Lajward’, a place in Turkestan where the stone was mined.   It was so prized by ancient peoples of the Middle East that it was known as ‘blue gold’.  The city of Ur in Mesopotamia is said to have traded in lapis, and excavations of nearby royal tombs revealed thousands of statuettes of animals, all carved from beautiful blue lapis.

The Egyptians loved lapis lazuli because it was the colour of the heavens, and they believed that it offered protection from evil.  They imported it from Syria and Palestine, and carved…

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