A bright blue stone containing golden specks, used in jewelry, intaglios, and decorative inlays and veneer. It is also the stone from which natural ultramarine pigment is ground, which was once widely used, but is now extremely expensive. Scientifically known as sodium aluminum silicate, until the nineteenth century it was obtained only from mines in what is now northeastern Afghanistan. The best lapis is called lapis lazuli.(pr. LA-pə LA-zyoo-LI:)