The amazing quality of lapis lazuli, the purity of its colour and the mystery of its origins have meant that it has been pursued through the ages as a rare and precious gemstone.
Sarah Searight's passion, set ablaze at school by a line in a poem by Robert Browning, has led to a lifetime in search of the stone itself and the role it played in the great civilisations of the Old World.
In this book she seeks out the stone across a number of cultures and their histories and traverses a wide geographical area from Saharan Africa and the Middle East, to Central Asia and into Europe. She examines the different perceptions and the role of lapis lazuli from its origins, usually in the remote mountains of north western Afghanistan.
She takes us into both remote and familiar worlds where this remarkable stone cast its own spell to represent different things to different societies. We learn of its use not only as an item of jewellery but how its use and acquisition was often almost a royal prerogative and how it had an enduring sacred dimension. The common theme is its rarity, the purity of its colour and its perennial association with the exclusiveness of power.
She also outlines how the modern world perceives lapis lazuli, looks at the current marketplace and the dangers for the present-day buyer.
"(Sarah Searight) has travelled not only into Afghanistan, but also throughout the Middle East and Europe searching and finding her 'Celestial Stone'. It is the stories behind it, the magnificent works of art in which it was used, and its history that binds it all together. The splendid colour illustrations range widely over the mines, the raw material, and the lapis merchants, through to the simple early jewellery and on to the magnificent jewels of medieval Europe. Through all this the story is always one of 'Romancing the Stone' - this is, in fact, a love story, which began in Searight's childhood."
- Minerva Magazine July/August 2011
Sarah Searight is an author, journalist and lecturer who has lived, worked and travelled extensively in Asia and the Middle East. She is the author of a number of books on the region.
She now lives in London.
260 x 200 mm, 272 pages, 170 colour plates
ISBN 978 1 907318 030
Reprinted March 2013