How to make faux Lapis Lazuli

One very cool thing about polymer clay is its ability to mimic many materials found in nature.

Real lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone, is noted for its beautiful blue due to the mineral lazurite. Lapis can also be mottled with white from calcite and highlighted with golden flecks from pyrite.

I encourage you to look at a few resources that display lapis, because I think you'll see there are so many variations in how lapis appears, you have the freedom of many options when you decide to make your own version of lapis.

This how-to or tutorial is about how I make faux lapis lazuli using polymer clay.

 
Faux lapis focal in a woven copper bracelet

 
Heart shaped faux lapis focal in a woven brass bracelet

 

 
The classic lapis bead necklace (faux version)

Real Lapis Lazuli... or is it?

Supplies  
 
  • Various polymer clay blues:
    • blue pearl
    • blue
    • ultramarine blue
    • cobalt blue
    • navy blue
  • translucent clay
  • composition gold leaf (not real gold!)
  • stiff sharp clay blade
  • acrylic rod

What, no pasta machine? That's right, no pasta machine is needed for this technique.

 

Specific ratios are not important with this effect. If you have many the varieties of blue and translucent you might want to favor the cobalt blue, pearl blue and translucent clays a little more than the other colors.

Note: The clay that looks white is really translucent. The white will get more watery after it's baked.



1)

For this effect, it helps to have stiff clay. If you're in a warm environment and/or your clay is soft, chill your clay.

Use the blade to chop and mix the clays together. Since the goal is to make this look natural and natural lapis color distribution is not perfectly even, your chopped pieces of clay do not have to be even in size and the color mix doesn't have to be even.

 

 

2)

When your mixture is very close to what you want, add torn pieces of the composition gold leaf to the mixture and chop mix a little more.

 

 

An advanced step would be to make several separate piles of chopped clay, each with varying ratios of blues, translucent and gold leaf and size of the pieces.

Then, very slightly mix the different piles together. This will produce even greater variations in colors and patterns, thus looking more natural.

 

3)

Use your hands to begin shaping the chopped pieces into a rough block shape. Then use the acrylic roller to pound all sides of the block to really tighten it up, removing as many air pockets as you can.

4)

With your lapis block, you can

  • cut the block into chunks, shape the chunks into beads
  • cut thick slices from the block to make a pendants
  • use your imagination!

Whatever you do with your block, you want to minimize mushing it too much or running a slice through your pasta machine too many times. This particular version of faux lapis relies on sharp, jagged lines. Too much manipulation will lessen that effect.

 

5)

Bake your pieces (beads, pendants, etc.) at the manufacturer's recommended temperature. If you've mixed brands, where each has a different temperature, you may have to identify an average temp and test bake. The one clay in the mixture that's the most sensitive to temperature is the translucent. Too hot and the translucent may brown.

After baking, I recommend sanding and buffing faux surfaces to retain a more natural looking finish..

Because the gold leaf is not a surface treatment but mixed in the clay, you can sand and buff this composite without losing gold flecks. You may lose the gold on the surface, but there's more throughout the clay.

Note the difference between the baked, sanded and buffed beads in this photo versus the unbaked beads in the step 4 photo, directly above this photo. The difference is due to the translucent clay losing it's milky whiteness during the bake.

Enjoy your fabulous new strand of lapis lazuli beads. ;-)

Desiree

Last update to this page: 30 Aug 08. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.