Lapis lazuli, noun

Lapis lazuli

OK, OK, technically lapis lazuli is two words, but it hits the eye and rolls off the tongue in such an odd an quirky way I just had to investigate its true meaning and origin. Very simply, lapis lazuli is a rich, deep blue semi-precious stone, registering 5.5 on the Mohs scale (for those of you who even know what the Mohs scale is; I certainly don't). The object pictured here is a Chinese naturally-shaped and carved stone, decorated in gold on lapis lazuli and standing 17 inches tall. It's a featured lot in Converse Auctions' two-day, internet-only auction slated for Nov. 4-5.

Lapis lazuli first appeared in English sometime between 1350-1400, as a Middle English equivalent to the Latin lapis (stone) and lazuli (azure). It's a deep blue mineral composed mainly of lazurite (big help there, right?), with smaller quantities of other minerals. It is used mainly as a gem or as a pigment. It can also be used as an adjective, to describe something sky-blue in color. Lapis lazuli has been prized since antiquity for its intense color. It was used for the eyebrows, among other features, on the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (1341-1323 BC).