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Beyond the Sea: Amazing Lapis

November 17, 2016November 16, 2017No comments

Lapis Lazuli is a stone prized for its royal blue hue and golden flecks–the treasure of queens and painters. For many hundreds of years it could only be found in remote and dusty Afghan hills. It’s rarity and inaccessibility only enhanced the value of this lovely rock.


One of Lapis’ more interesting uses was as a pigment for oil paint. It was highly prized as a true and vivid blue. But it had to make its way from Middle Eastern deserts, be crushed into a fine powder, and painstakingly mixed into just the right consistency. It was known as Ultramarine blue, which means “beyond the sea”. All of these things made it a very expensive color to paint with, and supposedly Michelangelo himself couldn’t always afford to buy it. 


Johannes Vermeer went into great debt as an artist, due in part to his lavish use of Ultramarine blue. Take for example this painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

Today there is a synthetic substitute for Ultramarine blue. It no longer requires finely ground Lapis and is much less expensive. However, Lapis remains a lovely stone worthy of a place in many beautiful pieces of jewelry.





Davis, Ashley. “25 Stunning Pieces of Lapis Jewelry.” National Jeweler. 24 October 2016. Web. 26 October 2016. <>

“Lapis Lazuli: Overview.” Gemological Institute of America. N.d. Web. 26 October 2016. <>

Mangla, Ravi. “True Blue.” The Paris Review. 5 June 2015. Web. 26 October 2016. <>

“Natural Ultramarine.” Essential Vermeer 2.0. N.d. Web. 26 October 2016. <>