November 21, 2010; ~9:30 AM
Our first stop was (*sigh*) a Unique Shopping Opportunity.
At least this one was fun though. Faba specializes in lapis lazuli - not just jewelry but also inlaid statuary and objets d'art.
For those who are not gemstone-savvy, lapis is a lovely deep blue colored stone - ground lapis lazuli was the basis for the wildly expensive "ultramarine blue" pigment used to paint Mary's mantle in medieval Christian art:
It was wildly expensive because 1) it had to be imported from a distant (and hostile) source overseas (ultramarine literally means beyond the sea), 2) it took a lot of processing, and 3) it resists fading very well. In some medieval paintings Mary's blue mantle is the only thing that still has color! (I knew this part from my medieval hobbyist days.)
Apparently Chile and Afghanistan are the two main sources of lapis lazuli. The main difference is that Afghani lapis often has veins of gold pyrite running through it while Chilean lapis has veins of white calcite instead. You can see them here:
(click for bigger.) I had fun browsing, although the Chilean-peso-to-dollar exchange rate (500 pesos to the dollar) made the prices look even more outrageous than they probably were. I was also grateful that the store had a water dispenser since they weren't selling bottled water on the bus as we have gotten accustomed to. I became a two-fisted drinker:
Some of our bus-mates wandered off to a clothing store nearby
but they had to content themselves with window-shopping: in Chile, nothing really opens before 10 or 11 AM, especially on a Saturday. Faba opened early, just for us!