Intensely deep blue in color, lapis lazuli, or lapis, has been valued as an ornamental stone since the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Rome—which valued it more highly than sapphires and turquoise. A rock composed of three different minerals, the finest lapis still comes from a remote mountain valley in northern Afghanistan, where it has been continuously mined for more than 6,000 years.
The only gemstones made by living creatures, rare NATURAL PEARLS are produced by mollusks who layer calcium carbonate around a microscopic irritant. Most pearls used commercially today are FRESHWATER PEARLS, cultured or farmed by implanting a grafted piece of shell into freshwater pearl mussels. SHELL PEARLS, also known as simulated or replica pearls are made from mother-of-pearl. Pearl is the birthstone for June.