This smoky stone literally sprouted from underneath the crust of the earth, bursting out as lava only to cool down into a rock. Lava stone is traversed by fine air pockets, making it wonderfully light yet lending it a solid feel at the same time.
DID YOU KNOW?
When a volcano erupts, its scorching hot lava shoots out and runs down its sides. Once this liquid rock mass dries, it becomes lava stone.
Did you know?
Lava stone deposits are found all over the world, from Iceland, Greenland, the Canary Islands, Spain, and the Faroe Islands, to Ireland, France, India, South Africa, Cameroon, Germany, and the USA/Hawaii. The stone is sourced in areas with active or dormant volcanoes. It is also present under continental or oceanic plates, between two divergent oceanic plates, and at subduction zones of plates.
DID YOU KNOW?
TO BE PRECISE
Geologists prefer to call it volcanic rock, as they consider lava to be molten liquid whereas rocks are solid. It can be used to describe pumice, basalt, and rocks that were actually never lava but look as if they were.
Geologically speaking lava stone is usually basalt, a stone formed when gasses in the earth’s magma begin to solidify into rock material. From various outcrops of the Aztec civilization, basalt was used for art and household tools. In Ancient Egyptian history, basalt was quarried from the Fayoum area in the Western Desert and turned into building stones, possibly pyramid capstones, temple pavements, sculptures, small vessels, figurines, sarcophagi, and grinding stones for grain. In Ottoman cities it was applied as a building stone due to its sturdiness. This also counts for certain Northern European cities such as Edinburgh. Currently, basalt is often applied as crushed aggregate in construction projects such as those of roads and pavements, and cut into thinly sliced dimension stones for the use of, for instance, flooring.
In a way, basalt has become world famous. It is believed that the Code of Hammurabi was engraved in a tall basalt stele around 1750 BCE. Written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, it is the longest and best-preserved legal text from that era and region. A few of Easter Island’s Moai statues were carved out of the ash gray stone, too. One example is the statue called Hoa Hakananai'a (meaning “lost, hidden, or stolen friend”) that dates back from about 1000-1200 BCE.
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
At BasmalaBeads, we wanted to combine the use of lava stone with a practice savored in many Muslim societies: the use of pleasant fragrances. We discovered that the porous nature of this volcanic stone allows it to function as a natural fragrance diffuser. Once the beads have absorbed a perfumed essential oil such as musk, they slowly give off a scent so inviting common belief says it attracts angels.
Did you know that the Foundation Stone (sakhra in Arabic) and the interior of the Dome of the Rock were perfumed extensively for visitors to enjoy? Adam Bursi, a scholar on relics and material religion, refers to literary traditions likely dating from the late Umayyad period that describe how the entire Stone was covered in a perfume made from musk, ambergris, saffron, and other materials twice per week. The curtains would then be raised and it would be announced that “the sakhra is open for the people! Whosoever wants to pray therein, let them come!” After leaving the premises, worshipers would be surrounded by a cloud of heavenly scents. Caliphs and governors always made sure that the walls of the Kaʿba and the blessed Prophet’s Mosque were coated with perfume. As patrons of these sacred spaces, Adam Bursi writes, it was both their duty and a sign of control.