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Legend Of Gems

[Legends Of Gems]  [Diamonds And Zirconia]  [Color In Gems]  [Birthstones] 
[Aquarius Gems]  [Pisces Gems]  [Aries Gems]  [Taurus Gems]  [Gemini Gems]  [Cancer Gems]  [Leo Gems]  [Virgo Gems]  [Libra Gems]  [Scorpio Gems]  [Saggitarius Gems]  [Capricorn Gems] 

( Orginally published November 1937 )

To declare that there are strange, inexplicable powers in gem stones strikes the average person of today as absurd. To him a stone is an inanimate thing. Notwithstanding, since the beginning of time, the notion has persisted that gems do exert a positive influence on their possessors. Today there are people who assert that gems are not dead inert matter but that they are vibrantly alive, their atoms vibrating as definitely as do the atoms in what is usually considered living substances.

Just what is this power of precious stones? As far back as we have and record, there is testimony of the fascination held by crystals and jewels for all mankind. From The Book of the Dead - that profoundly occult volume which is credited to the ancient Egyptians, though its origin is lost in the mists of antiquity-we get a definite idea of the high honor in which gems were held by the ancients. It tells of the use of jewels, especially jade, lapis lazuli, and amethyst, in ceremonials for the dying in order that they might receive the help they needed on the perilous and troublesome journey through the nether world.

Belief in the magic properties of jewels antedates our present civilization. Investigators of the occult tell us that the Atlanteans, who were said to have been universally instructed in the secret powers of nature, made use of precious stones in their ceremonials of magic. Though of course this cannot be proved, yet in the ruins of the temples of Chichen Itza in Yucatan-temples believed to have been dedicated to a form of religious worship such as was practiced in Atlantis of old-many gems have been found, principally of jade. When the sacred well was excavated, many plaques and small pieced of carved jade and turquoise were found. When a stone treasure chest was discovered in one of the Mayan pyramids, a jade plaque found there was interpreted as being the figure of the hero god, Itzamna, who had led his people into Yucatan.

Two great streams of lapidary legends flowed into Europe in ancient times, the Egyptian concerned mainly with the life after death and the Babylonian with safety for the living. In the lore of both countries, an occult contact with the gods could be maintained by means of the amulet, which was regarded as a symbol of the relationship between helpless man and the powers of the supernatural. As a visible prayer, the amulet was often engraved with an inscription, sometimes gilded or inlaid with a contrasting color. The materials chosen for amulets were usually the harder stones which would permit of constant wear. From the beginning color undoubtedly played as large a part as hardness in the selection of amulets.

From the writings of Pliny we learn much of the Greek and Roman beliefs in the magic of gem stones, legends which he preserved in spite of his personal skepticism as to the prophylactic magic ascribed to the stones. Ancient writings of the Chinese and Hindu scribes record their acceptance of the power of precious stones, and Biblical literature abounds in references to the protective virtues attributed to gems.

In fact, few references to gems are left to us from ancient and medieval times that do not infer this occult power. In earlier times the major interest was in the medicinal value of stones when applied to the body or when powdered and taken internally. As beliefs in the potency of gems as medicine waned, the idea persisted that strange and unexplainable rays were cast off by stones worn close to the skin, either secretly as amulets or openly in rings or necklaces. These occult powers were attributed to the vibration of light imparted by the sun's rays and given off by genuine stones. Often the under sides of amulets and rings were engraved with sacred or personal symbols, or in case the stone was held in a metal base, the metal was thus carved: The engraving on the inside of wedding rings of modern times is a survival of this belief that an inscription should touch the skin.

These personal amulets were later used as signets by which one might seal documents. Egyptian scarabs, carved in the shape of the sacred beetle and used as charms, also served as seals. The cartouches of the Pharoahs were carved as much to serve as personal charms as to preserve the name for immortality. The jasper seals of the Roman emperors undoubtedly served the same purpose. Cameos carved to show the head of a chosen deity attest to this custom, as do intaglios of onyx, jasper, and hematite, which seemed the favored stones in later times.

After the beginning of the Christian era, the church opposed magic in all forms, disapproving especially of amulets engraved with magicworking names but permitting use of stones for medicinal purposes. So strongly did gems appeal to the people, however, that a religious symbolism grew up based on the old legends but embroidering new beliefs with a religious import. The old legends of magic-working gems persisted longer on the continent than in England. However, in the works of many English writers the old traditions seemed to verge with the new well down into the eighteenth century.

A research student reports that though references to precious stones are numerous in Shakespeare's plays, no implication can be found that he believed in their magic virtues. But in remote districts in England such beliefs still linger, and in Mayfair today a conscious revival of interest in the ancient lore of gems has been manifest.

In times past, precious stones have proved a safe treasure in which to invest personal as well as public funds. Oriental potentates still have enormous storehouses of gems. The wealth of the church has often been concentrated in gem stones. Such wealth could be guarded in small space and could be transported easily. Gems often played important parts in treaties of peace or as tribute to a conqueror. Queen Isabella had already offered her finest pearl necklace in payment for war supplies when Columbus applied to her for the financing of his first voyage westward. The rest of her jewels she pledged for a sum which today would be approximately $93,000. Within recent years, when the newly established Stanford University was faced with a delay in receiving funds to carry on, the widow of the founder brought forth her jewel casket and placed it in the hands of the president of the university that the precious stones might be sold to meet the crisis.

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