Lapis Lazuli is the perfect blue stone, and is associated with dignity, serenity and wisdom as well as instinctive creativity.
It is a rare rock formed largely of lazulite, and found only in Afghanistan, where it has been mined for 6,500 years.
Thanks to its scarcity and value as the source of the most intense blue, it has long been prized by artists, and Renaissance artists' contracts frequently specified the amount to be used.
Indeed, its value was a sign of the subject's importance - hence the Virgin Mary was generally shown wearing blue robes.
Here the celebrated intense blue is crossed by bands of white calcite, and dusted with flecks of golden pyrite.