LAPIS LAZULI 93
mining is done in the most primitive form. Huge fires are built on the
rocks, and water is then thrown on them. Owing to the sudden cooling
the rocks split up and can then readily be excavated. The yield,
however, is small, and the price even for exceptionally fine specimens
is low. China and other parts of Asia consume most of the supply.
color of the stone, however, gives it a peculiar charm, and the walls
of the Palace Zarskoe-Selo, Russia, built by the order of Catherine II,
were entirely lined with slabs of lapis lazuli and amber. The stone was
believed by the Greeks and Romans to have strong medicinal properties,
and when pulverized was often used as a tonic. Even as late as the
sixteenth century it was supposed to be a cure for melancholia.