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|Dimensions (mm)||not provided|
|Weight (carats)||not provided|
LAPIS LAZULI BEAD
ROUND BEAD HOLE DRILLED
The best lapis lazuli is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan , and these deposits in the mines of Sar-e-Sang have been worked for more than 6,000 years.[ 7] Afghanistan was the source of lapis for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the later Greek and Roman; during the height of the Indus valley civilization about 2000 B.C. , the Harappan colony now known as Shortugai was established near the lapis mines.[ 2]
In addition to the Afghan deposits, lapis has been extracted for years in the Andes near Ovalle , Chile , where the deep blue stones compete in quality with those from Afghanistan. Other less important sources include the Lake Baikal region of Russia , Siberia , Angola , Burma , Pakistan , USA (California and Colorado ), Canada and India .
In ancient Egypt lapis lazuli was a favorite stone for amulets and ornaments such as scarabs ; it was also used by the Assyrians and Babylonians for seals . Lapis jewelry has been found at excavations of the Predynastic Egyptian site Naqada (3300–3100 BC), and powdered lapis was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra .[ 2]
As inscribed in the 140th chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead , lapis lazuli, in the shape of an eye set in gold, was considered an amulet of great power. On the last day of the month, an offering was made before this symbolic eye, for it was believed that, on that day, the supreme being placed such an image on his head.[citation needed ]
The ancient royal Sumerian tombs of Ur, located near the Euphrates River in lower Iraq, contained more than 6000 beautifully executed lapis lazuli statuettes of birds, deer, and rodents as well as dishes, beads, and cylinder seals. These carved artifacts undoubtedly came from material mined in Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan . Much Sumerian and Akkadian poetry makes reference to lapis lazuli as a gem befitting royal splendor.[citation needed ]
In ancient times, lapis lazuli was known as sapphire ,[ 8] which is the name that is used today for the blue corundum variety sapphire. It appears to have been the sapphire of ancient writers because Pliny refers to sapphirus as a stone sprinkled with specks of gold. A similar reference can be found in the Hebrew Bible in Job 28:6. The Bible (New Living Translation) also mentions lapis lazuli in Exodus 24:10 where God Himself seems to be standing upon it while on Mount Sinai.
Many of the blues in painting from medieval Illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance panels were derived from lapis lazuli. Ground to a powder and processed to remove impurities and isolate the component lazurite, it forms the pigment ultramarine . This clear, bright blue, which was one of the few available to painters before the 19th century, cost a princely sum. As tempera painting was superseded by the advent of oil paint in the Renaissance, painters found that the brilliance of ultramarine was greatly diminished when it was ground in oil and this, along with its cost, led to a steady decline in usage. Since the synthetic version of ultramarine was discovered in the 19th century (along with other 19th century blues, such as cobalt blue), production and use of the natural variety has almost ceased, though several pigment companies still produce it and some painters are still attracted to its brilliance and its romantic history
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