A stone of the gods and coveted as much by mere mortals, lapis lazuli has held civilisations across the world in its hypnotic allure. Dating back to antiquity, this brilliant blue semi-precious stone with twinkling flecks of gold has been used in jewellery, to adorn objects d’art, and the most coveted paintings of the world. It has even driven Renaissance artists to bankruptcy in their quest for the dazzling pigment made from this fabled stone.
Lapis was initially mined in the Sar-e-Sang Valley of the Badakshan Mountains in north-east Afghanistan. Marco Polo, who encountered it during his travels, is said to have remarked: ‘There is a mountain in that region where the finest azure [lapis lazuli] in the world is found. It appears in veins like silver streaks.’