Lapis lazuli beads might as well come straight from the tales of the Arabian Nights, with their rich blue color and inclusions that twinkle like stars! One of only a few rocks used as a semiprecious gemstone, lapis lazuli contains grains of several blue minerals, including lazurite and sodalite. This opaque stone is distinctively fluorescent, and contains a matrix of calcite and speckles of pyrite. Lapis lazuli was one of the first gemstones to be used in jewelry.
Mediterranean excavations have unearthed lapis jewelry dating back to 2900 B.C., and the legendary city of Ur is reported to have run a lapis trade as early as 4000 B.C. Alexander the Great introduced this deep blue gemstone to Europe. In the Middle Ages, monks powdered the stone for use in illuminated manuscripts. Today, people around the world consider lapis lazuli to be a stone of truth, spirituality, and friendship. Keep in mind that lapis gemstones are easily scratched and chipped; clean these beads only with a soft, dry cloth to maintain their shine.