The alternative birthstone for the month of September is the beautiful Lapis Lazuli, often referred to as the cousin of the turquoise. Because of its beautiful blue color it has often been ground to powder form and then used to create paint and make up. Lapis Lazuli has been used in jewelry for thousands of years and got its name from the Latin word "lapis" which means stone and the Arabian word "azul" which means blue. Lapis is composed mainly out of lazurite and several other minerals, making it a rock rather than a mineral. It measures a 5 - 5.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it a rather soft gemstone, prone to damage under heavy use.
Lapis Lazuli is an affordable stone, often cut as a cabochon and used for larger jewelry pieces such as in our In Orbit Brooch. Lapis Lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan for many centuries, but can also be found in Canada, Italy and Pakistan. By the end of the middle ages, Lapis Lazuli was being exported to Europe where it was ground into a fine power used to make ultramarine - the finest and most expensive of blue pigments. This color was used for the most important figures in paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, usually the Virgin Mary and royalty.
Lapis Lazuli comes in several shades of blue, ranging from a purple blue to a green blue. The shade of blue depends on the amount of sulfur present in the stone. Generally, less calcite gives the stone a much lighter blue color, which is not as valuable as the darker stones. The most valuable stones have an evenly distributed (dark blue) color, while the less valuable ones tend to have several shades of blue in them. Some people enjoy the very even and pure color of the Lapis Lazuli, while others like the playful spots and freckles (due to the golden pyrite) similar to the turquoise.
It is the official gemstone for the seventh and the ninth wedding anniversary and has been said to promote friendship, truth and total awareness. Some also believe that it can help with disorders of the throat, bone marrow and immune system.