Ultramarine Blue, hailing from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious rock containing the blue factor lazurite, was used since prehistoric times. Lapis lazuli was possibly the first known blue; Egyptians used it as a precious stone to make their jewelries and ornaments (since 3500 BC).
Maybe the earliest findings in paints using lapis lazuli as a blue color were found in mural paintings excavated in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) in the 6th or 7th century. Marco Polo introduced the lapis lazuli stone from Northern Afghanistan in Europe, on one of his trips (1270-1292) while visiting Afghanistan’s mines and saw its trade prospective. The procedure to extract the lazurite blue part from the stone was very long and expensive.
Although the unique color of the pigment was extremely desired, at the same time its distant source, shortage and prolonged refinement procedure made it accessible to very few people and it was as treasured as gold during the 18th century. Manufacturing of synthetic Ultramarine Blue began in the 19th century. As limitless amounts could be manufactured at a much lower price, Ultramarine Blue consumption increased vividly.