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Lapis Lazuli Vs Sodalite

small wooden bowl of lapis lazuli stones next to some sodalite tumbled stones. Text reads how to tell one from the other

Sodalite is Often Mistaken for Lapis Lazuli

Although sodalite and lapis lazuli can be a similar colour, it's generally quite easy to tell one from the other. 

Although sodalite is best known for being blue it does occur in other colours.  Blue however is far more common.

Lapis lazuli only occurs in one colour.  The shade can vary slightly depending on the grade but it's always blue.
lapis lazuli marquise shaped cabochon in someone's hand and a lapis lazuli pendant necklace isolated on a white backgroundlapis lazuli polished stone alongside two small lapis lazuli polished crystal wandsIt's worth noting that lapis lazuli irrespective of grade almost always features inclusions of pyrite

Pyrite also known as iron pyrite and fools gold is an iron sulphide mineral.  This means it's a chemical compound of iron and sulphide.  It's rare to find lapis lazuli without these golden coloured markings.  

Interestingly the pyrite is actually an inclusion within the mineral lazurite.  Lazurite is one of several minerals that makes up lapis lazuli.  It's also responsible for the stone's blue colour.

Pyrite is rarely present in sodalite so if you see golden coloured inclusions the stone will almost certainly be lapis lazuli.

The amount of pyrite that's present can vary considerably.
lapis lazuli mounted as a pendant in a sterling silver setting alongside a rectangular shaped lapis lazuli cabochon
Inclusions of white calcite can also be found in both lapis and sodalite.  In sodalite it may be particularly distinctive or when subtle can simply give the stone a slightly mottled appearance.

Sodalite that's free from inclusions is usually a finer grade.  In the following photo the sodalite tumbled stones on the left are virtually inclusion free.  You'll notice the shade of blue has a slightly purplish tint.

Although inclusions in sodalite can make the stone more interesting, the presence of another mineral lowers the grade of the stone.

Where calcite is present in lapis lazuli the stone tends to look quite different. 
sodalite tumbled stones. On the left, grade a stones in someone's hand, on the right lower grade sodalite included with white calciteInclusions of calcite can be seen in the lapis lazuli stones in this next photo but it's far more grey.  You'll also notice the stone has more of a navy blue colour.

Even if you were to find sodalite with a similar colour to lapis, it's unlikely that any pyrite would be present.     
small wooden bowl of lapis lazuli tumbled stones
Sodalite can also feature an orange inclusion which may be calcite or feldspar.  The colour may also come from some kind of staining or oxidation

The difference between rocks and minerals causes no end of confusion.  Lapis lazuli is a metamorphic rock.  It occurs where limestone or marble has been altered by extreme heat or pressure.  It can only be found in a few countries around the world.

The vast majority of material and certainly the finest grade comes from Afghanistan.  Lapis lazuli is slightly heavier than sodalite which is a mineral.

Sodalite is far more common than lapis and can be found in several countries around the world.  Commercial grade stone is therefore cheaper.  It's not unusual for sodalite to be dyed to produce fake lapis.

Low grade lapis lazuli can also be dyed to make it look as if it's a finer grade.

The largest sodalite mines are in Canada, USA and Brazil. Material can be found in smaller quantities in Greenland, Russia, India, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Namibia, Portugal, Romania, Burma and Russia.

If you're uncertain whether a stone is lapis lazuli or sodalite, the first thing to do is look for inclusions of pyrite.  In the vast majority of lapis lazuli these golden coloured speckles will be present and visible.
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