Lapis lazuli is also called blue gold

Lapis lazuli is a highly valued mineral all over the world. For more than 6 thousand years, it was extracted from mines found in Afghanistan. A place that nowadays became a real problem of international interest. It raised its value so much that it was called the blue gold.

lapis lazuli

For several centuries this precious stone was exported from a heavenly place. Even before the territory was called Afghanistan, it was known as the place where lapis lazuli was found. This was the only place in the world where you could get it.

Some details of lapis lazuli

It is a metamorphic rock, composed of other minerals. The lazurite is the one that gives it the intense blue and it is also composed of calcite and pyrite. It has been mined for millennia in the Hindu Kush Mountains in the province of Badakhshan.

For millennia it was used as an ornament and jewelry and the Egyptians used it extensively. However, in the late Middle Ages, it was also implemented as a pigment by Renaissance painters.

By using it as a pigment it increased in demand

That’s how it increased in demand. Most of the blue skies seen in Renaissance paintings have lapis lazuli as a pigment. The silk route was used to move it from Asia to different parts of Europe.

Caravans departed from Afghanistan to Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome and Japan. But it was during the 13th and 14th century that it became indispensable in Italy. The painters would grind the stone and get the blue from overseas. Because they moved it by sea, that’s how they called it.

Only with lapis lazuli did they get that intense, brilliant blue that still adorns many works of art. Moreover, the pigment was not affected by exposure to the sun or the passage of time, unlike other blues.

lapis lazuli mineral

Its high cost made it the blue gold of Asia

When it became very difficult to obtain, its price surpassed that of gold. Many painters signed contracts to make their paintings and were ruined by the price of lapis lazuli. This is why it was called Asian blue gold.

Because of this, Renaissance painters began to look for a replacement for the prized stone. Azurite also has a blue color, though not the properties of lapis lazuli. However, the azurite mines were in the West, with a much lower cost of transportation.

During the 19th century, with the development of chemistry, France offered through a competition an excellent prize. It would be awarded to the chemist who would create a pigment to replace lapis lazuli, with its same characteristics and properties. The prize went to the chemist Jean Baptiste Guimet, who created the best pigment in a laboratory.

Today lapis lazuli is still mined in Afghanistan. Although the political problems and the prevailing corruption make it difficult to obtain it. For reasons different from those of the Renaissance, it has once again become the “blue gold”. The problem is compounded because the Taliban are using the proceeds to finance their revolution.

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