Out of The Crowd: One of December’s Many Birthstones

Is it merely coincidence that some months have many associated birthstones while others have but one? December has, according to Bernadine’s website, thirteen of them! Two of these, zircon and lapis, are listed as the traditional birthstones while turquoise, blue topaz, and tanzanite are named as the modern birthstones. There are “talismanic” bithstones, astrological birthstones, and at least two more stones attributed to other cultures.

In the interests of my reality check, I am not going to delve into all of them, but rather I’ve decided to turn the spotlight on one of the traditional stones: Lapis lazuli

I first encountered the name of the stone “lapis lazuli” when I was a young girl reading a book wherein one of the characters was described as having an expensive lapis lazuli bracelet. Lapis is especially interesting as it is a gem quality rock rather than a mineral as it is a combination of several different minerals (as is, for example, granite). These include lazurite, a somewhat rare and costly deep blue mineral, pyrite, (also known as “fool’s gold), calcite, and occasionally other trace minerals. Calcite is not so well valued and the more calcite there is in a sample the lower the value of that sample. Chemically it is Sodium Calcium Aluminum Silicate Sulfur Sulfate. What a mouthful!

It is also quite beautiful, a rich dark blue sprinkled with spots of deep metallic bronze-gold and streaked with white. Mineral Atlas (see reference 2, below) offers several lovely images of this rock such as this one,

Lapis Lazuli rock from Mineral Atlas - see reference 2

Lapis Lazuli has been continuously mined for about 6000 at Kokcha, a remote mountain valley in Afghanistan. Back then it was exported to Egypt and Iraq where it was used in acrvings, jewelry and ground up to be used as a cosmetic pigment. Later, it was used in Europe in jewelry and in the making of the color ultramarine in artists’ oil paints. Presently, besides Kokcha, lapis is mined in Chile, US, Canada, Siberia and Pakistan, although the highest quality stone remains that of the original source.

Here is one example of works created by artists in ancient Egypt (see reference 4) :

Ancient Egyptian use of lapis lazuli in gold scarab with carnelian and other minerals

I suppose it is no surprise to anyone that I am inspired by these ancients’ sense of beauty of adornment…

1. Lazurite or Lapis, Amethyst Gallery’s Mineral Galleries

2. Theo Kloprogge, Vibrational Spectroscopy and Photo Atlas of Minerals Queensland University of Technology

3. Lapis Lazuli, Facts, Lore, History, Myths and Pictures, Bernadine Fine Art Jewelry

4. Jewellery of Ancient Egypt, All About Gemstones

6 Responses to “Out of The Crowd: One of December’s Many Birthstones”

  1. Marsha Says:

    Yowser! That scarab is really spectacular. A well-researched and informative post as usual.

  2. Patricia C Says:

    Isn’t it just? I think I’m going to have to do a whole piece on ancient Egyptian jewelry.

    Thank you, both, Marsha and Ruthie. 🙂

  3. Ruthie Says:


  4. Olga Says:

    Great post, Patricia! I enjoy working with lapis, it is a very nice stone. That scarab picture is stunning! Thank you for inspiration 🙂

  5. Rachele Says:

    Great post as usual Patricia, however the scarab picture wouldn’t load for me. I’ll have to check back later to see if it comes up. Thanks for all the great posts, I love them all.

  6. Patricia C Says:

    Rachele, the image comes directly from the site where it resides. I don’t have enough info to know why it won’t load but one top of the head guess would be that it has to do with your browsers security settings. I could be awfully wrong though. In any case, there are a whole bunch of beautiful images there and I wholeheartedly recommend indulging in a tea and time spent staring at them. My references include links to each site if anyone wants to try them.

    To all: I had no idea this topic would strike a chord with so many. It’s very exciting for me. I am thrilled you all found this post worthwhile.