THE HISTORY OF GEMSTONES
Gem creation myths grew up in all societies. In India it was believed that emeralds contained the light of fireflies, rock crystal was widely thought to be a form of fossilized ice, the sapphire was said to form a pedestal for the earth, its colour reflected in the blue of the sky. Their colors and brilliance were thought to be proof of magic powers of protection or healing. The amethyst, color of wine, warded off drunkenness, the emerald and aquamarine brought clarity of vision, the topaz light in darkness – enough for sailors to steer by.
Today the diamond is seen as the King of Gems – its strength and adamantine brilliance symbols of indomitable strength, endurance and perfect beauty. Before the 17th century the cutters’ skill and tools were simply not equal to the task of cutting the hardest mineral known. It was the ruby that was the most precious, with its rich color of blood and fire just as magnificent in a free form cabochon.
Rare as well as beautiful, gems became obvious symbols of power. A particular gem or jewel proclaimed the wearer’s rank or office. Bishops wore amethyst rings. Diamonds, until the South African deposits were found, were for royalty alone. Sumptuary laws were brought in to prevent excesses, bring in revenue from fines and help maintain clear class distinctions. Now it is the American “Class Ring”, the chain of office, an arm full of bangles – even the engagement ring that proclaims to the world what and who we are. ACM
(This is a fragment of the chapter. Read the whole story in your new copy!)