A rich azure-blue in colour, lapis lazuli is a combination of minerals, primarily lazurite and Alcite, often with spangles of iron pyrites. The name comes from the Arabic word Lazaward (14th century) from which the English word azureù comes. The best quality lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan, where it has been mined since antiquity. In 1271 Marco Polo discovered old Lapis mines in Afghanistan and from there it was exported to Germany, China, Russia and India. The ancient Egyptians, who often used it for their seals, probably also obtained their supplies from Afghanistan. It is a royal stone and was revered both in ancient Egypt and in Jewish history, as it was probably the òsapphire on the high priest’s breastplate. It was used in Egypt to temper the ill effects of acts on incest, like pharaohs, the rulers of ancient Egypt customarily married their eldest sister. For centuries powdered Lapis was used as a pigment in oil paintings. It was a favourite jewellery stone, said to promote friendship and goodwill and to guard against oppression and evil. It is also known as the stone of truth and integrity and is thought to enhance wisdom, inner vision and mental clarity. It can help one to overcome depression, enhancing feelings of serenity and self-acceptance, and is said to bring success in relationships and cheer to the user. Lapis can be used in the treatment of disorders of the throat, bone marrow, thymus and immune system and can help to relieve insomnia and dizziness. Lapis lazuli is one of the birthstones for December (with turquoise), symbolizing prosperity.