Sometimes called “true blue,” ultramarine is made from the semiprecious gemstone lapis lazuli, which for centuries could only be found in a single mountain range in Afghanistan.
Egyptian traders began importing the stone as early as 6,000 years ago, using it to adorn jewelry and headdresses.
Yet they never figured out how to make a vibrant pigment from it. Riddled with minerals such as calcite, pyrite, augite, and mica, lapis loses its potency when it is ground up, turning from a bright blue to a dull gray.
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