For thousands of years man has been fascinated by the beauty and mystery of gemstones. Over the millenia, countless rare and beautiful stones have been turned into precious jewels as symbols of riches, power and love ... Gems are Symbols of wealth, prestige and represent a level of luxury that stands for “the best”. They are given as tokens of love and appreciation, as they come in a myriad of colours and textures that alter in the light and command a person’s gaze. They are ultimate beauty.
At one time gemstones were thought to be of celestial origin which led to the belief that they possessed supernatural or magical powers. The science of astrology is based on the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects. Furthermore, it is believed that there is a relationship between each planet and each sign of the zodiac and every person and every object (including gemstones) on the earth.
But it was because of the other “powers” of gemstones - those indefinable properties that were believed to produce magical or miraculous effects, to avert evil and bring good fortune - that they were worn as talismans and examined so intimately. They evoke strong emotions, from love and warmth, to greed, passion and mystery. This is part of the reason for humankind cherishing gems for so long.
Thus it is thought by many that the influence of the planets over human fortunes is enhanced by wearing the gem appropriate to the planet or zodiac sign concerned. Astrologers from different cultures, religions and countries have, however, differed over the years in their interpretation of the influence of the planets and consequently on the gem appropriate to the sign of the zodiac.
History Even in antiquity as men gazed at the shapes of crystals, whose origins they could not begin to understand or explain, it is not surprising that it was thought that these fascinating formations held supernatural powers. Fantastic origins have been suggested over the years for gemstones ... rock crystal was ice permanently frozen by intense cold ... hyacinth (a precious stone of the ancients sometimes thought to be the sapphire) was produced by the earth’s extreme aridity combined with the sun’s powerful action ... amber was thought to
be a product of lynxes’ urine and birds’ tears. In the Stone Age, primitive men became interested in gold, which was relatively easy to melt and to cast. From this the first pieces of real jewellery were made. Silver and copper were mined during the Bronze Age and jewels, ornaments and cult statuettes were made from copper, bronze and rocks of unusually striking colour or shape. The ancient Egyptians commonly inlaid gold and silver with semi-precious stones such as carnelian, jasper, amethyst, turquoise and lapis lazuli. A particularly
popular jewellery item was the signet ring and many of the motifs used, such as the lotus, falcon, serpent and eye, were derived from religious symbols. Scarabs were also popular in ancient Egypt and Rome. The Greeks made ornaments of plain gold until around 400 BC when a variety of gems and cameos were used. Roman jewellery was massive with ropes of pearls highly prized and Medieval jewellery included very large brooches. During the Renaissance, men and women wore gold chains, jewelled collars, and pendants, often designed
by noted artists. Ornaments crowded with stones were worn to excess in the late 17th century. Jewellery was almost superseded in the late 18th century by decorative buttons, watches and snuffboxes, but the 19th century brought the revival of the bracelet and the cameo. When factory production of jewellery began, artistry declined and costume jewellery was introduced by Gabrielle Chanel in the 20th century. However, there has been renewed interest in hand-wrought jewellery since the craft revival of the 1960’s.
Gems in Religion Gemstones have had a place in religion for thousands of years. The Bible refers to the twelve stones set in the breastplate of the High Priest symbolising the twelve tribes of Israel. In the book of Revelations twelve stones are once again mentioned as the foundation stones of the wall of New Jerusalem. Though the symbolism of each stone is open to speculation, most of these stones have been used in churches in one form or another since the inception of Christianity. Precious stones adorn the tiara and mitre of the Pope and Bishops as well as the shrines and icons found in Christian churches. Temples and places of worship of all religions were and still are adorned with gemstones, as signified particularly by moonstones in India, malachite and azurite in Egypt, agates in Rome, jade in China, crystal in Japan, turquoise in Persia (Iran) and amethyst wherever Christianity developed in Europe. While many of the beliefs surrounding gemstones are regarded in the scientifically-influenced Western (and mainly Christian) thinking as perhaps primarily of historic influence, the Eastern religions have a far greater reverence for gemstones. The Chinese believe that all natural things have an animate spirit of their own. Jade is the symbol of the virtues of mercy, modesty, courage, justice and wisdom. The Japanese regard rock crystal as the symbol of purity, patience and perseverance.
Blue Fluorite crystals, Blanchard Mine, New Mexico
Fluorite, Quartz and Wolframite, China
Purple Fluorite Cubes, Mapimi, Durango
From the Hunan Province in China, a spectacular specimen of red-violet fluorite on quarz, with wolframite. The large fluorite crystal measures about 1â€? square.
Cobalt blue cubes of fluorite crystals, purple that tends towards blue, from Mina Ojuela in Mapimi, Durango. The central crystal measures about 3/8â€? square.
Magic and Mystery Countless magical and medicinal properties have been attributed to gemstones over the centuries. Diamonds gave immunity to poison and revealed infidelity, Amethyst protected against drunkenness, Heliotrope (bloodstone) stopped nosebleed and conferred invisibility, Sapphire enabled the wearer to escape from prison. For many centuries, because the origin of disease was unknown, its treatment was linked with magic and superstition. Although the healing properties of certain gemstones were first recorded in the early Egyptian days, it was not until Roman times that scholars such as Pliny wrote of gemstones as a form of medicine. It was the ecclesiastical writers who compiled the first major treatises on healing with gems.
Brilliant Herkimer Diamonds On a dark matrix, these gemmy Herkimer diamonds shine brilliantly. The shine is so bright that any colors nearby are reflected. The very large quartz crystals make this a magnificent specimen and the entire piece measures about four inches tall.
Rhodochrosite Crystal, Alma, Colorado
Aragonite, Var. Excentric, Styria, Austria
Healing The use of gemstones for healing was carried out in different ways. At times, the mere presence of the stone was thought to be sufficient to effect a cure. At other times the gem was placed on the afflicted part of the body and sometimes the stone was powdered and eaten. Successes achieved by the various applications of gemstones may not have been due to the gems directly, but to the effect of the suggestion on the sufferer. Failures were excused by the explanation that the stone used was not “genuine”. Today, increasing numbers of people are pursuing various non-traditional methods of illness diagnosis and therapy. Many of these alternative approaches, including “natural” medicine, acupuncture and even gemstones, have been employed in the treatment of disease for centuries and are again becoming more and more accepted, which would indicate a certain degree of success.
There seems to be little doubt today that in many cases the mind does, in fact, play a vital role in the ability of the body to recover from illness ... the healing power of positive thought is accepted by both traditional and alternative medical practitioners. The belief in the powers of a certain therapy, therefore, could indeed contribute to the cure of the illness. In many of the books on the healing powers of gemstones, so many virtues are attributed to each stone that one might conclude that any stone can cure any disease. It appears, however, that in many cases of duplicated healing powers, either the colour or the constitution of the stone has indicated its appropriateness for a particular disease.
Afeldsparmineral.Thecolorsarecalled“labradorescence” or the “schiller effect.” Labradorescence is a side-effect of the molecular change which occurs in large crystal masses of anorthosite, producing an iridescent play of colors similar to adularescence.
Pyromorphite, Idaho from the Bunker Hill Mine in Kellogg, Shoshone County. This locality is famous for pyromorphite specimens and this one measures about 3 1/2” across.
Velvet Beauty is the actual name of this magnificent specimen. It was found in 1890 at Bisbee, Arizona, long a world-known site for azurite and malachite as well as copper. This piece weighs ca. 3 pounds and is about 9” in diameter.
Surrounding gemstones will always be a confusing blend of fact and fantasy, superstition and reality ... and you will have tp decide yourself whether or not, with all the technology and “sophistication” of modern man, gemstones can influence our moods, our health, our wealth, our lives. The pantheistic notion that ‘rocks’ can have magical properties is something many of us can relate to from our childhoods…. How many of you carried a ‘lucky stone’ in your pocket as a kid? For many of us, its as if we were born knowing that stones can have magical qualities, as if this knowlege is part of the collective consciousness. Were we born understanding the talismanic properties of stones, or did others around us simply impart the message? Hard to tell. Whatever one’s belief, it is certain that the beauty and appeal of gemstones will endure ... to be celebrated by poets, depicted by artists and studied by scientists. They have defied the passage of time and will surely continue to fascinate future generations.
Vanadinite Crystals, Morocco
Fire Agate, is a semi-precious natural gemstone found only in certain areas of Mexico and the United States, which formed approximately 24-36 million years ago during a period of volcanism when hot water, saturated with silica and iron oxide, repeatedly filled cracks and bubbles in the surrounding rock.
Fire agates have beautiful iridescent rainbow colors, similar to opal, caused by the alternating silica and iron oxide layers which allow light to pass and form interference of colors known as fire. There is no actual object inside the stone, this special effect arises from light interference within the microstructure layering of the gem.