A stone to back up financial expenses of Taliban movement
For over six thousand years, people have been shedding their blood to get their hands on this mineral. In ancient times, slaves were dying while trying to pull the stone from the mountain tops, caravans carrying semiprecious stone to European countries were disappearing, and even innocent bystanders who happened to catch hold of it all of a sudden were getting lost. Nowadays, this mineral has become the main source of income for the Islamic movement Taliban.
The mineral’s name is lapis lazuli. It can be turquoise, bright blue, purple, sometimes blue and greenish. One of the most popular stones throughout human history was mined in Afghanistan, where the first lazurite digging mines were guarded more carefully than the royal palaces. The location of those mines was kept confidential. Anyone who wandered along the forbidden territory and got inside the area ended up being brutally murdered. Miners working in the pits were left chained till the end of their lives. The only person who could have the stone was the Emir himself.
Lazuli is one of the twelve gemstones mentioned in the Bible and the one which was mentioned most of all in the Holy Scriptures. According to the legend, the Tablets with the Ten Commandments passed from the God to Moses were made of lazurite. Because of it, many ancient temples and mosques were decorated with lazurite mosaic.
Lazurite was considered a valuable stone as in the East as in Europe, where it quickly gained popularity due to its color. As per legends, Italian artists from the Renaissance period were fighting for this mineral, sometimes even killing to obtain it, and, because of the high value of lapis lazuli pigment, many of their paintings had not been finished in the end.
At the period of the medieval Inquisition, lazurite was saving people’s lives from the death penalty. Back then, one of the ways to torture people was to make an accused person take a burning hot metal crucifix in one’s own hands. In order to succeed, people rubbed their hands with lazurite powder, which protected them from terrible burns. Actually, in the olden days, lazuli stones were thrown into the fire and kept them burning for ten days so as to detect fakes. The genuine samples retained their colour despite the procedure.
Indian traditional medicine argues that azure stone helps people with diseases caused by energy loss. In Russia, almost all disorders were treated with this stone. For instance, the Empress Anna Ioannovna was taking care of her rheumatism by putting a plate made of lapis azuli under her back. The Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, used a bench made of lazurite to suppress gout attacks. The Emperors of the Qing Dynasty suffering from asthma symptoms always carried the cushion from lapis lazuli with them.
Lazuli is mainly valued as a decorative and ornamental material. In Russia, unique lazurite objects were made at lapidary factories in Peterhof and Ekaterinburg, the ones unavailable anywhere else in the world. The most worthy of mention are five-meter high columns of Saint Isaac's Cathedral, human-height vases in the Hermitage Museum, and azure walls of the Alexander Palace.
The most expensive type of lazurite - dark blue with golden inclusions of pyrite - is found only in Badakhshan. The stones extracted in this area have no match in any other part of the world. More than that, unique by their technological properties and shape samples account for only 10 to 15 percent of all discovered stones. Nowadays, lazurite is mostly mined in Afghanistan illegally and serves as one of the main sources of income for the criminal gangs.