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Genuine Natural Antique 19th Century Afghani 6 Carat Hand Cut and Etched Lapis Lazuli Bead/Pendant. Contemporary Gold Electroplated Chain Included.

CLASSIFICATION: Handcarved and Incised Lapis Lazuli Bead-Pendant in the Style of Ancient Sumer and Rome.

ORIGIN: 19th Century Badakhshan, northeastern Afghanistan.

SIZE: Length: 12mm. Width: 11mm. Thickness: 5mm. All measurements approximate.

WEIGHT: 5.95 carats.

NOTES: Includes the 60 centimeter (24 inch) gold electroplated chain depicted. Other chains available upon request in various lengths and materials (sterling silver, 14kt gold, 14kt gold fill, silver electroplate, etc.).

DETAIL: A beautiful, handcrafted beautiful antique Afghani bright blue lapis lazuli semi-precious gemstone mounted onto a contemporary 14kt gold electroplated 24 inch chain. This gorgeous, richly colored natural blue lapis lazuli gemstone is from the 7,000 year old mines at Badakhshan in Afghanistan, source of lapis lazuli for the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Phoenicians, and the rest of the ancient world. The gemstone was hand crafted into this very beautiful bead-pendant by a 19th century Afghani artisan. Besides being hand cut and polished, it was also hand etched (and the etched lines painted) in a style very reminiscent of the beads and pendants of ancient Sumer and ancient Rome (see "The History of Beads from 30,000 B.C. to Present" by Lois Dubin). In fact so convincing is the style that we have occasionally seen some actually some offered as ancient Roman, though in fact they were merely crafted in an ancient style. Though clearly antique and nicely done, this is not ancient. Nonetheless this is a gorgeous bead/pendant, product of an artisan tradition at least 5,000 years old.

Though it is quite obvious that this gemstone was hand crafted, the irregularities which are the hallmark of handcrafted gemstones are generally regarded as appealing to most gemstone collectors, and are not considered detrimental. Unlike today's computer controlled machine finished gemstones, the cut and finish of gemstones such as this is the legacy of an artisan who lived a century or more ago. Such antique hand-crafted gemstones possess much greater character and appeal than today's mass-produced machine-produced gemstones. Gem quality lapis lazuli is in high demand, and can be quite costly, and though roughly shaped, this is a nice quality lapis lazuli gemstone. The gold electroplated chain pictured is included at no additional charge. We also have a selection of solid 14kt gold, 14kt gold fill, sterling silver, and silver electroplated chains available as well.

Lapis Lazuli gets its name from the Arabic word "allazward", meaning "sky-blue". Along with turquoise and carnelian, the three are undoubtedly amongst the most ancient of gemstones. For more than 7,000 years lapis lazuli has been mined as a gemstone in Afghanistan, near ancient Mesopotamia, and traded throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. The ancient source of lapis lazuli was these very same mines at Badakhshan, in the Persian highlands above the fertile Mesopotamian lowlands. The Persian highlands and plateau provided many of the raw materials lacking in the ancient civilizations abounding in the Mesopotamian lowlands (the "fertile crescent").

The most ancient jewelry typically used one or more of these three gemstones (carnelian, turquoise), and lapis lazuli was certainly very popular. How popular? Well, the most ancient examples of jewelry are probably those found in Queen Pu-abi's tomb at Ur in Sumeria dating from the 3rd millennium B.C. In the crypt the queen was covered with a robe of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate, and chalcedony beads. The lower edge of the robe was decorated with a fringed border of small gold, carnelian, and lapis lazuli cylinders. Near her right arm were three long gold pins with lapis lazuli heads, and three amulets in the shape of fish. Two of the fish amulets were made of gold and the third, you guessed it, lapis lazuli. On the queen's head were three diadems each featuring lapis lazuli.

At roughly the same time, lapis lazuli was also certainly popular in 3,100 B.C. with the Egyptians who used it in medicines, pigments (ultramarine), cosmetics (eye-shadow) and, of course, jewelry. The ancient Egyptians believed lapis lazuli to be sacred and used it in the tombs and coffins of pharaohs. The famous mask (left) covering the head of Tutankhamen's mummy is inlaid primarily in lapis lazuli, with accents of turquoise and carnelian. The tombs of Tutankhamen and Queen Pu-abi, two of the richest tombs in all history, lapis lazuli was featured prominently in both.

Besides jewelry, lapis lazuli has also been used since ancient times for mosaics and other inlaid work, carved amulets, vases, and other objects. Ordinarily it was cut cabochon (smooth concave) as a gem. Since ancient times it was also ground and used as a pigment. When lapis was first introduced to Europe, it was called "ultramarinum", which means "beyond the sea". Ground lapis was the secret of the blue in ultramarine, the pigment which painters used to paint the sea and the sky until the nineteenth century. Lapis was also popular in inlays. In what was once one of the cultural capitals of Europe, St. Petersburg, Russia, the 100 foot columns of St Isaac's Cathedral are lined with lapis, and the Pushkin Palace has lapis lazuli paneling 60 feet in height! Most lapis lazuli contains iron pyrite in the form of golden flecks sprinkled throughout the gemstone, the hallmark characteristic of lapis lazuli, often compared by the ancient with stars in the sky.

SHIPPING OPTIONS: All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. Most of these antique gemstones were originally part of two collections, one originating in India principally composed of gemstones originally mined in India, Burma, Ceylon, and Siam, and then hand faceted in India. The addition of a second accumulation of antique gemstones originally mined in the Urals in the mid to late 19th century (including alexandrite) completed the collection. These gemstones as well were hand finished. The Urals have been one of the world's major sources of precious and semi-precious gemstones for many centuries. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers in Eastern Europe and Asia. These antique gemstones are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery.

We ship inventory from the USA order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipping within 48 hours of payment. A certificate of authenticity is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). We will accept PayPal payments. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE".