Lapis lazuli is basically a composite of several different minerals that finally achieve the result of an opaque, blue stone of intense, lovely color. It has been prized through the millennia, from the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian cultures till this very day. For the past 5000 years lapis has been mined almost entirely in Northeastern Afghanistan and this country is still the world's major supplier of the gem. Today you can also get good grade lapis mined in Chile , though for the most part, it will not be as fine as those mined in Afghanistan .
Lapis varies wildly in quality and clarity, the most prized lapis being the deeply violet-blue stone that is free of white-grey calcite veining that often appears on the stone. This stone in very often found with inclusions, and so finding a pure, solidly blue piece of good lapis is a real treasure. Most often the gem is specked with small white flecks, whitish mottling or sparkling gold and silver flecks that are pyrite inclusions formed in the rock. All of these inclusions reduce worth per carat, and the very fine grade lapis can be very expensive.
Misrepresentation is common for this gem and it is often called “Swiss lapis”, “Russian lapis” or “Italian lapis”, though these are usually quartz gems or jasper artificially colored and dyed blue to fool the consumers. Glass imitations, dyed chalcedony and quartz are very common substitutes. You should remember that lapis is absolutely opaque and no light shines through it. Imitations are usually made of quartz, and even if dyed, they will let some light through at the edges, so this can be the first thing you check when buying lapis. Dye can also be detected by rubbing fingernail polish remover or alcoho