Deep blue lapis lazuli was used throughout the ancient world for mosaics, seals, and jewelry. It’s just one of the precious stones inlaid in the white marble walls of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan’s monument to his beloved wife. This gold-vermeil and teardrop lapis jewelry is inspired by headdresses found among the crown jewels of India’s 17th-century Mughal princes.
Handcrafted in Jaipur, India. Earrings: 1 1/8"L. Necklace: 17"L. S-hook clasp.
The intense, almost otherworldly blue of lapis lazuli has been highly prized for more than 6,000 years. The only known miles are in Zambia, Chile, Siberia, and most significantly, the Sar-e-Sang mine in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. Ancient Egyptians used the mineral in amulets and scarabsKing Tutankhamun's sarcophagus is heavily inlaid with lapis. Because the stone is always flecked with fool's good (iron pyrite), it's been a symbol of the starry night and the heavens for cultures from Persia to pre-Columbian civilizations in South America. Journalist Victoria Finlay writes that in Afghanistan in the 1970s "before the Soviets Union invaded, lapis lazuli was a popular stone among Kabul's middle class. People made glitzy jewelry out of it and kept the stone as savings."
Lapis lazuli is also the source of the pigment ultramarine, popular among Renaissance painters, especially Michelangelo. The name comes from the Italian oltramarino meaning "from beyond the seas," and the pigment was so pricey that artists themselves could not afford it; they relied on patrons to purchase it for them. The first known use of lapis lazuli as paint is in the Bamiyan Buddahs, two colossal 6th-century statues in the Bamyan Valley of central Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.