Lapis Lazuli, The Perennial Gem

No other rock gives the feeling of holding the sky or the sea in your hands. Since antiquity, the semi-precious stone, Lapis Lazuli, is highly desired for its indelible, intense blue. Its mineral makeup of mostly lazurite, white calcite, blue sodalite and above all, pyrite which resembles as gold, gives the lapis its unique character. Ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome, have incorporated the azure gem into their culture in the form of jewelry, ornaments and even powdered cosmetics and pigment. Mining for the lapis stone occurred as early as 7000 B.C. in the Badakhshan, a province in present-day Afghanistan, which remains a major source for top quality stones today.


Blue Flame Lapis Lazuli at the Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History. Weighing over 250 pounds, it is one of the largest and finest known pieces of gem-quality lapis lazuli.


At Eye of the Cat, we love jewellery that features the lapis stone. Here are some reasons why it will always be a mainstay in our collection:

If it’s good enough for ancient royalty, it’s good enough for us.

Perhaps it’s the other-worldly intensity of its blue that has gotten ancient elites, from Sumerian Kings to Egyptian pharaohs, hot for the lapis lazuli. Just stroll through the collections of the best museums to see how prominently the lapis was featured in the jewellery and ornaments of past civilizations. 

Some of our favorites are from the Metropolitan Museum of New York. For example, these beaded Sumerian necklaces discovered in the royal graves known as the Great Death Pit of Ur. Despite being almost 5,000 years old, the alternating biconical design in gold and lapis lazuli beads, is strikingly modern.

Another is this Egyptian Scarab Finger Ring from 1850-1750 B.C. is a fine example of how well the lapis stone takes to an exquisite carving and polish.


Necklace beads, ca. 2600–2500 B.C., Sumerian


The funeral mask of King Tutankhamun is the most astounding use of the lapis lazuli in all of history. The mask is intricately and richly inlaid with lapis, perhaps the King had wanted to connect with the heavens through the deep blue color, transcending the mortal world for all eternity.

It was coveted by all Renaissance artists. 

It was Giotto, the most important Italian painter of the 14th century, who changed the game with his rendering of Heavens in his masterpiece fresco at the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy. The entire ceiling is transmuted to a firmament of divine blue and golden stars. Yes, that very blue pigment is derived from the lapis lazuli stone. 


Giotto's Fresco Cycle, 1303-1305, The Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy


Never before in the canon of Western Art has there been such an intense display of blue until the Renaissance. Traders from Afghanistan imported the semi-precious stone, which was then snapped up by the best artists, masters of the day such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian. The rock was expertly ground down and purified to produce the color known as ultramarine blue. So rare and costly was this iridescent pigment that soon it was reserved only to represent divinity in paintings, i.e. the Virgin Mary. It’s been a staple in the palettes of artists ever since. 

We particularly love how the Golden Age Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) endearingly adorned his famous girl with a brilliant ultramarine blue headscarf, that so wonderfully complements the lustrous pearl earring.


Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, c. 1665; in the Mauritshuis, The Hague.


It’s Spiritual.

In Persian folklore the stone was said to be the starry sky condensed in a special gem, containing all the knowledge of the universe. In Islam, it was chosen to be a protector against the evil eye, and the Buddhists would also tap into the stone's healing energy for inner peace. As a third eye chakra stone, the lapis is believed to aid in developing one’s intuition, and desire for knowledge, truth and understanding.

How the lapis lazuli came to be associated with wisdom, love and healing abilities, is mostly because of its hypnotic deep blue appearance. It is a contemplative experience to gaze into the stone and meditate. The French artist Yves Klein (1928 – 1962) truly believed in it so much that he perfected the balance of lapis lazuli pigments to produce his famous “International Klein Blue” monochromatic paintings. The experience of looking at these powerful paintings are nothing short of profound. Klein said, “Blue is beyond dimensions. Blue suggests the sea and sky. Painting this way, I met the empty, the deep empty, the depth of the blue.”

It resembles a familiar blue planet.



We have all seen the image: a stark blue ball amidst the darkness of space. Our Earth is one of the most iconic gem in the solar system, it’s blue is absolutely undeniable. Of all the semi-precious stones, it’s the lapis lazuli that most resembles it. Both the Earth and the Lapis are beautiful blue rocks. Gifts of Nature.


We know that any jewellery with the Lapis Lazuli stone is hard to come by, so whenever great examples pop up, we definitely pay attention. We currently have this incredible vintage 14K gold ring with an exquisite large lapis to offer. 

This circa 1920s ring from Vienna is crafted in 14K Yellow Gold with a substantial cabochon cut lapis lazuli that is securely held in place in a flush style setting.

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