Ancient history of gemstones….

Treasured Gems

People have treasured gems for many reasons throughout history. Some of these reasons include the use of gems as beautiful decorative ornaments, religious symbols, and amulets and good-luck charms. Gems have also been used for barter and medicinal purposes. Gems have even been used as investments by some people. For others, gems have been used to display wealth, status, and power.

In centuries past, royalty often owned the finest gems. Some of these gems still exist, and their histories are a fascinating mix of fact and legend. Take, for example, the Black Prince’s Ruby and the Timur Ruby. Both are set in the Imperial Crown of the British crown jewels.

In 1367, England’s Prince Edward, who was known as the Black Prince, helped a Spanish king win a battle. The grateful king gave him a dark red, irregular gemstone. Legend says King Henry V wore the gem in his helmet crown, and that it saved his life by deflecting a blow in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The 361-carat Timur Ruby is another striking dark red gem. It was among the treasures brought from India to England in 1850. In the 1300’s, the gem belonged to Timur Lenk and took his name. He is better known in history as Tamerlane, the Islamic conqueror of much of central Asia and eastern Europe. Names and dates carved on the gem show that it later belonged to five Indian rulers. One of them was Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal.

Gem Lore

Gem lore is full of stories of gemstones with magic and symbolic properties. Ancient peoples believed that certain gems would protect them from misfortune, illness, and unhappiness. The list of gem-related superstitions is long and sometimes contradictory. Opal, for instance, was thought by some to bring bad luck, while others cherished it as a symbol of hope.

In Europe during the Middle Ages, and even more recently in India, pharmacists sold powdered gems as medicine. They were typically to be taken with water or herbal tea. The most expensive gemstones were thought to have the greatest curative powers. Red gems were supposed to help stop bleeding. Green ones were supposed to help the eyes, because green is a restful colour. Yellow stones were believed to cure jaundice.

The number twelve is common in gem lore. Twelve gems that represented the twelve tribes of Israel were set in the breastplate of Aaron, the first high priest of the Hebrews. Among Christians, symbolic gems represented the twelve apostles.

The Twelve Tribes The Twelve Apostles

Levi, garnet Peter, jasper

Zebulon, diamond Andrew, sapphire

Gad, amethyst James, chalcedony

Benjamin, jasper John, emerald

Simeon, chrysolite Philip, sardonyx

Issachar, sapphire Bartholomew, sard

Naphtali, agate Matthew, chrysolite

Joseph, onyx Thomas, beryl

Reuben, sard James the Less, topaz

Judah, emerald Judy, chrysolprase

Dan, topaz Simon, hyacinth

Asher, beryl Judas, amethyst

Gems have also inspired many myths. One such example is the legendary creation of the gemstone amethyst. Bacchus, the god of wine and conviviality, was angry because of some slight against him and swore revenge. He announced that the first mortal to come across his path would be eaten by tigers. Just at that moment along came the lovely maiden Amethyst, on her way to worship at the shrine of the goddess Diana. Diana saw what was happening and transformed Amethyst into stone to rescue her from a violent death. When Bacchus viewed the miracle, he repented and poured wine over the stone, staining it purple. In addition, gems have long been associated with the signs of the zodiac and with the sun, moon, and planets.

Signs of the Zodiac

Aries the ram, bloodstone

Taurus the bull, sapphire

Gemini the twins, agate

Cancer the crab, emerald

Leo the lion, onyx

Virgo the virgin, carnelian

Libra the scales, chrysolite

Scorpio the scorpion, aquamarine

Sagittarius the archer, topaz

Capricorn the goat, ruby

Aquarius the water bearer, garnet

Pisces the fishes, amethyst

Lastly, legend has it that the devil created coloured gems. He saw how much people loved coloured flowers, so he coloured gems to gain power and control over mankind. The facts, however, are less fanciful.

Contemporary History

Most gemstones are minerals or rocks and occur in favored sites in the earth’s crust or in the gravels that result from the weathering of rocks. Of the beautifully gemstonelized minerals that seem useful for gems, only a very few actually meet the standards, that is, are sufficiently beautiful, durable, rare, and large enough to be cut into salable stones. As a class of natural objects, gemstones are exceedingly rare.

About one hundred chemical elements make up the earth. Oxygen and silicon are by far the most plentiful elements in the earth’s crust, and they occur in most minerals. In gemstones, they are major ingredients in amethyst, aquamarine, emerald, garnet, peridot, topaz, tourmaline, and zircon. Oxygen is a major ingredient in ruby, sapphire, chrysoberyl, and spinel.

As a mineral forms, certain atoms attract each other and arrange themselves in an orderly geometric pattern called the gemstone structure. All mineral gemstones have their atoms arranged in some combination of fourteen basic patterns.

Minerals usually occur as gemstoneline grains in rocks. Because the grains compete with neighbouring ones for very limited space, there usually isn’t room for complete gemstone shapes to form. Time is another important factor in gemstone growth. When molten rock cools quickly, natural glass or tiny gemstones form. Slower cooling time gives larger gemstones time to grow.

Large gemstones may form whenever conditions are right. They may grow slowly into open spaces in cracks or hollows in the rocks. Occasionally, nearly perfect gemstones are found. A mineral’s internal atomic structure determines its distinctive exterior gemstone shape. Gemstone shape often helps identify and distinguish gem minerals from one another.

Today, many gems can be creates in laboratories. Synthetic gems have the same chemical composition and physical properties as naturally formed gemstones. A simulated gem may look like a natural gem, but there the similarity ends.

 

 

 

Interesting Facts about gemstones

Historical Uses

-The healing uses of gemstones are documented as far back as 1500 B.C. in the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt. This Egyptian medicinal text documented the many ways in which gemstones were used for healing.

-The ancient Egyptians strongly believed in the healing and protective power of gemstones. Many pharaohs wore gemstones on their headdresses and many gemstone amulets have been found in their tombs. The pharaohs often had their masks lined with gemstones in the belief that gemstones helped them be better rulers. Many objects of Amazonite and Lapis were found in King Tut’s tomb and Amazonite was one of the stones on his famous gold mask.

-Gemstones are also used for healing in Chinese Medicine, which dates back to at least 5000 years. Gemstone needles are also often used in modern day Chinese acupuncture and in Pranic Healing.

-Gemstones have also been recognized for healing by Tibetan Buddhists and the Ayurvedic healing system for hundreds of years. The use of gemstones is popular in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

-The Vedas, sacred texts in Hinduism that are over 5,000 years old, thoroughly discuss the power of gemstones and their uses for healing. The Vedas prescribe specific gemstones for certain ailments and describe the properties and powers of different gemstones. For example, in the Vedas it is written that Emeralds bring good luck and well-being.

-Gemstones are referred to over 200 times in the Bible.

-As an example, in the Old Testament, the High Priests were required to dress in “holy garments,” which were centred around the Breastplate of the High Priests. God instructed Moses to build the Breastplate of the High Priests and gave him step by step directions as to the twelve gemstones he was to include on the Breastplate.

-In the New Testament, God’s heavenly city, New Jerusalem, is said to be built on foundations of gemstones. “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.”

-In 1150, Saint Hildegard wrote two medical treatises where she documented the healing properties of gemstones and their uses. She described how the vibrational energy in gemstones strengthened the weak and healed illnesses. Saint Hildegard was highly regarded for her many accomplishments. In the 1100’s she wrote poems, books on medicine and theology, plays, and composed music, on top of being a nun, physician, orator, scientist, preacher, consultant to popes and kings, and a philosopher. She also founded two monasteries. These accomplishments would be amazing for a woman today, let alone a woman living in the 1100s.

-In Muslim culture, using the power of gemstones has also been very popular. The Muslim prophet, Muhammad, himself wore a Carnelian ring and it was believed by many that wearing a Carnelian ring guaranteed Allah granting all your desires, which made Carnelian a very popular gemstone amongst Muslims.

-Excerpt from Jameel Kermalli’s book, “Islam: The Absolute Truth”:
“In Islam, a tradition states that Ali used to wear four rings on his hand – Opal (Yaqut) for beauty and dignity; Turquoise (Feruz) for obtaining divine help and victory; Hadid Thin for strength, and Carnelian (Aqiq) to protect himself from enemies and all types of misfortunes. The religion Islam has strongly recommended its followers to wear rings made from different stones, as a way to increase faith, piety, and endurance. The stones of Aqiq, Feruz and so forth have been specifically recommended by the Prophet (S) himself to wear them at all times, and especially during prayer. Stones have unlimited practical and medicinal properties.

….’Aqiq protects Shia from unjust rulers and from everything else, which causes fear.’ (Amali of Tusi – Volume 1, Page 36)

This means that the stone recognizes a Shia of Ali and produces strong energy fields that block adulterated nearby sources of energy. This is why Muslims have been advised to keep their rings in one place at all times when they are not wearing the stones – this way the energy that is absorbed and released from such stones surround themselves within the stone.”

-The use of gemstones for healing was very popular amongst indigenous tribes across the world.

-The Mayans used the power of gemstones for healing on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. They also used gemstones to diagnose diseases.

-The Incas also used gemstones for their power and healing. They particularly regarded the Emerald as a very powerful, holy stone and it is said that many Incas chose to die rather than give the conquerors the location of their Emerald mines.

-The medicine men in many Native American tribes and indigenous tribes in Australia also used (and still use) gemstones to diagnose illnesses, as well as to heal people.

-“For the Middle Ages and even into the 17th century, the talismanic values of precious stones were believed in by high and low, by princes and peasants, by the learned as well as the ignorant.” (George Frederick Kunz, in his book “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones”)

Random History Tidbits on Specific Gemstones:

– Tibetan monks considered quartz gemstone spheres to be holy objects of great powers.

-Taoists called quartz the “gem of enlightenment.”

-In Japan, quartz gemstone spheres were considered to represent the heart of dragons and in Japanese culture, dragons symbolize power and wisdom.

-Cleopatra’s favourite piece of jewellery was said to be an Amethyst ring, engraved with the figure of the Persian Sun god, Mithras. Since she seduced two powerful Roman generals, Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, it was believed by Roman wives that wearing Amethyst would ensure the devotion and faithfulness of their husbands.

-St. Valentine was said to wear an Amethyst ring carved with a picture of Cupid.

-Alexander the Great was said to wear a large Emerald during battles to ensure victory.

-The Moguls of India, including Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal), took Emeralds, inscribed them with sacred text and wore them as talismans.

-In Buddhism, the Medicine Buddha is called “Healing Master of Lapis Lazuli Radiance,” and rituals involving the Medicine Buddha include meditating on Lapis Lazuli.

– The ancient Sumerians valued Lapis as the most sacred stone. The ancient Sumerian Priests had a popular saying, “He who carries with him into battle an amulet of Lapis carries with him the presence of his God.”