Tech,  Life

Lapis lazuli – the magic weapon of the ancients

  There is a kind of naturally produced jade, the color is blue, just like the sky, and it is also dotted with glittering golden minerals, as if countless stars are shining in the night sky. Such a perfect combination makes it glamorous and has been loved by people since ancient times. This is lapis lazuli.
sacred stone

  People have known lapis lazuli for a long time. As early as 7000 BC in Afghanistan, people were already mining lapis lazuli. Around 4000 BC, the city of Ur in the Euphrates River Valley in the Middle East was already doing a prosperous lapis lazuli trade. Locals consider lapis lazuli to be a sacred stone with magical powers and even healing.
  On the banks of the Nile River, in the tomb of Tutankhamun, the pharaoh Tutankhamun of the eighteenth dynasty in the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, lapis lazuli ornaments are well preserved. Among them, the eyebrows on the golden mask worn by Tutankhamun are made of lapis lazuli. into. The ancients believed that lapis lazuli, whose color is like the blue sky, has magical powers and can be used as a magic weapon to reach the sky. It is not only used during sacrifices, but also worn on the body after death.

The eyebrows on the golden mask worn by Tutankhamun were made of lapis lazuli

  During the Qing Dynasty in my country, the emperor also used lapis lazuli when offering sacrifices to heaven, which shows that lapis lazuli was closely connected with heaven in the hearts of emperors, and it was a symbol of majesty and nobility.
ancient paint

  Lapis lazuli is not only a kind of jade, but also a high-quality blue pigment after being ground into powder, known as “natural ultramarine blue”. The ancient Egyptians ground lapis lazuli into powder to make cosmetics and applied them on the eyes. This is probably the earliest eye shadow. In the 14th century, lapis lazuli powder was widely used in murals and oil paintings, but it was very expensive, and it was usually only used to depict the costumes of central figures such as angels or the Virgin Mary.
  On the murals in Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in Gansu, Yongjing Bingling Temple Grottoes, Tianshui Maijishan Grottoes, Xinjiang Kizil Grottoes, and Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi Province, the blue that remains as bright as ever after thousands of years is also Painted with a pigment made from lapis lazuli powder.
  However, lapis lazuli pigments are expensive, and it was not until the early 19th century that people made similar products through chemical synthesis that they no longer relied solely on this naturally produced blue pigment.
“Fool’s Gold” in Lapis Lazuli

  The composition of lapis lazuli is very complex, which contains sulfur, calcium, sodium and other elements, and the color also changes accordingly, which can be dark blue, blue purple, sky blue or light blue, which is due to the various elements contained in it. The amount of mineral composition varies. But what exactly are the “dots and stars” in there? Is it really gold?

On the murals of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu, the blue that remains as bright as ever after thousands of years is due to the use of pigments made of lapis lazuli powder.

  ”A little bit of stars” is not actually gold, but a mineral containing iron and sulfur called pyrite. Because it is not only copper-yellow, but also has a bright metallic luster. It looks very beautiful and can often deceive people’s eyes into thinking it is gold. gold”. When the pyrite cuttings are scattered on the dark blue lapis lazuli, it sparkles like a sky full of Venus, which is very beautiful.
  In the jade market, the more uniform the color of lapis lazuli, the finer the texture, the fewer cracks, and the brighter the color of the pyrite crystals it contains, the higher its value.

Handicrafts made of various lapis lazuli
Afghanistan’s “National Stone”

  Lapis lazuli is not produced in many places in the world. The earliest and most famous mining history is Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan. One of the deposits has been continuously mined for more than 6,000 years. In addition, there are also a small amount of output in the Andes Mountains of South America, the western part of Lake Baikal in Russia, Myanmar, Canada and the United States. Today, Afghanistan has enshrined lapis lazuli as the “national stone”, which shows its preciousness.
  Due to the strict requirements on the growth environment, lapis lazuli is difficult to become a large rock mass. There is a huge lapis lazuli urn in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is huge, two meters high, pure in texture and bright in color. It is a rare treasure among lapis lazuli. In daily life, the most common carvings are small pieces of lapis lazuli jade, either carved into mountain views, or carved into flowers, birds, insects and fish, and smaller pieces are made into jade ornaments such as bracelets, necklaces and jade pendants.
  Although lapis lazuli pigments are used in many murals in our country, and lapis lazuli ornaments have also been unearthed in some ancient tombs, unfortunately, they are not produced in our country, but imported from Afghanistan through the “Silk Road” of. So far, no lapis lazuli deposits have been discovered in my country.

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