Believed to be the oldest commercially mined gem, Lapis came primarily from Bactria or what is modern-day Afghanistan. Lapis has in its long history (dating back to 700 B.C.), been used as gem adornment but also carved to make functional and ornamental items.
In Florence, its primary use was as pigment making the “most perfect of all colors” (Cennino Cennini, Book of the Arts, 1400). By the 16th-century, however, the Medici were commissioning precious objects made of Lapis accumulating quite a collection. Many of these are still on display in Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
As for me, I love Lapis. I have since my teens when I first encountered it in ornate historical building, inlaid into the ceiling. The color has a lot to do with it but I just love the feeling of handling Lapis. It has been called the stone of truth. It is rumored to help with communication, retention of knowledge, and focus. Whether or not these things are true, in the 16th-century many Florentines believed that the stone strengthened the mind. Some even believed that lies could not be uttered in the presence of Lapis.
I recently took on a student and made for her a belt containing Lapis beads for its connection to learning and focus, as well as, its connection to me. I quickly envied the belt and made one for myself. The belt is fashioned using completely modern materials for expedience. At some point, I will probably do more research and remake it with more historically appropriate materials. It is made of Lapis, of course with Pearls, Sapphires, and Yellow Cat’s Eye as accents. Pearls were a sign of wealth and deeply associated with the Medici in Florence, Sapphires are symbolic of commitment and steadiness, and Cat’s Eye is said to imbue the wearer with good health.
The end stone of my belt is a piece of Amber. Amber has medicinal properties of its own but I wear this one because it was given to me by a dear friend, Andros Korkyrates, who has since passed through the veil.
Here is the belt worn with a Florentine Veste and Sottana circa 1588 (Also wearing two necklaces of Lapis, of course).