Lapis Lazuli Gemstone Education

Common treatment for Lapis Lazuli may be dying to bring out more blue colors.  In such cases, avoid ultrasonic or steam cleaners as well as direct sunlight. Avoid using any detergents to clean it that may contain bleaching agents.  Do not use commercial or store bought jewelry cleaners on any stones you suspect that may be dyed.

Avoid wearing it while swimming where bleaching agents may be present. Very Humid atmospheres may also create issue (including swimming pools or otherwise at health clubs).

Lapis Lazuli is considered to be rather soft, much like that of an Opal, at a Moh's Scale of Mineral Hardness of between 5-6 and not a good idea for everyday use. And may chip or fracture easily.  Anything under 7 which starts accompanying the Quartz family of minerals, is not suggested for everyday uses.  Particularly with rings.  Lapis should be in well protected settings to avoid problems. 

For the above reasons, much Lapis is fashioned in Cabochon types of stones for use in Bezel Settings and otherwise.  Due to the law fracturing level and relatively softness of the stone, it is not a good faceting stone. And beside that it is rather opaque in its appearance.  Or not transparent. For good reasons, it has far too many inclusions that prevent it.

Some vendors will try to pass off dyed Howlite or dyed high-grade dolomite marble from Southeast Asia as Lapis Lazuli.  It should be noted that Dolomite Marble is commonly used for many gemstone imitations. Though it may not have pyrite showing in it; which is very common for nice Lapis; as well as calcite as well. 

Lapis is actually quite rare though much of it does exist.  It is however, difficult to find nice Lapis for use in Gemstones that contain nice pyrite inclusions.  And much will contain calcite as shown in the below photos.


The above photo (private collection) shows an imitation Lapis stone created by dying Howlite. Take note there is no calcite in the stone; nor is there any presence of pyrite which is quite common to Lapis.  The following shows what natural Howlite looks like and is also sold as a gemstone.  It is actually quite a beautiful stone where banding is present.


The following photos show actual Lapis Lazuli. Study them carefully to avoid falling for imitations that are very common with this popular gemstone.  Many of these are from Not Just Stones Owner's private collections.




The above Lapis Cab Stone has been dyed to bring out more blue color but the dying job is not all that great.  You would see such stones in many jewelry pieces.

The following Lapis Cabs show both calcite and also pyrite and are from our personal collections.


The following rough is Natural Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan which is a recognizable source for Lapis Lazuli and quite popular for sourcing. 

The piece may very well be dyed or just wet? Notice from the Cabs above, they are not as bight blue in their appearance?  They are more light blue with obvious traces of calcite in the mix.  And keep in mind, the cabs shown, are very much what most Lapis Lazuli will resemble when it comes out of the ground before cutting and treatments are applied.


The following Pendant is also from Afghanistan and Natural Lapis Lazuli. Notices the nice Pyrite inclusions in it as well as the traces of calcite (white) as well.  Notice also that this Lapis Lazuli Pendant is not that bright and resembles in color the type found in the cabs shown previously?


The following beads are also made from Afghanistan Lapis Lazuli but are likely dyed. They are far too blue for natural lapis lazuli that comes out of the ground. Again refer to the cabs above and also the pendant.  The blue is not as bright.  This can give indication of dying and also "imitations."  Which we suspect could be the case here.

You will see much of these for sale on places like Ebay, Amazon and even Etsy.  Be careful when you buy them as they very well could turn out to be something else.  As noted at the beginning of this article, Howlite and Dolomite both come to mind.

Our suggestion stay away from Chinese sellers or those who may be purchasing and reselling from them.  Once again, this is very common with what you may find on many markets. Remember what we note, less bright almost a dull looking color, presence of the white mineral Calcite and traces of Pyrite.  The question here is:  Do you see any of that in these stones?  You see one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb?  Heavy color and uneven at that.   You be the judge; we already know.   Undyed Natural lapis lazuli, dyed Lapis Lazuli; or just a bad imitation?   Again, be careful they are very common the market like this.


Final note on Lapis Lazuli Purchasing

Study the above photos carefully; take note of the distinctive characteristics they have including the presence of the white Calcite and also of course trace presence of pyrites.  Lapis Lazuli that contain more pyrite inclusions of course will be selling for many times more than stones that do not.

Cleaning Suggestion for Lapis Lazuli Gemstones and Jewelry

Please note these are the same methods that are recommended by companies whom sell Jewelry insurance. 

Clean with a soft toothbrush, warm water, and mild dish soap that does not contain bleaches.  Blue Dawn is recommended.  Polish up. 
If you use tarnish removers on your sterling silver, do not get it on the gemstones. Avoid ultrasonic, steam and store bought jewelry cleaners for your jewelry that contains any stones that may have possibly been dyed.

For more through cleaning take to a Jeweler. And Disclose any known treatments that you may be aware of to avoid damaging your pieces.

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