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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Libra: Sapphire And Opal

[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 )

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The sapphire is one of the earliest mentioned stones in the writings left to us from ancient times. Because it was often found in stream beds or along shore lines, its clear blue shining bright against the sand, it attracted attention as easily as did the ruby or red garnet. Having already been washed from its matrix, it was ready to be set in a ring or to be pierced and worn as an amulet or necklace.

Oriental races believed it a stone sacred to deity, creating a. mood for meditation and an impulse to prayer. Egyptians valued the stone for its color value, particularly because its deep sky-blue tone symbolized for them purity of character. Frequently they engraved on the sapphire the rays of the sun and inlaid the carving with gold. If a petitioner wore a sapphire when he approached the altar of the sun god, his prayer would be favorably considered. If he was impelled by selfish or envious motives, the stone would become pale.

Though the word sapphire usually connotes a deep blue, it is also found in white, canary yellow, bluish-green, reddish-brown, and violet tints. The pale stones were considered unripe gems, and the deep tones were held mature and more potent in magic. The ancients noted a resemblance in its "feathers," or planes of cleavage, to the shape of Babylonian cuneiform characters in early inscriptions, and read into such resemblance an added magic power.

Among the Hebrews of old, the sapphire was held to be the stone of wisdom and chastity. It was the gem of Joseph the Wise, who manfully resisted temptation. Throughout the middle ages, it was regarded as the stone of religious teachers, fostering in them a power to concentrate on their studies and interpret hidden meanings.

Though other stones were at first permitted in episcopal rings, Pope Innocent III in the twelfth century ordered that thereafter the sapphire alone should be used, set in pure gold. Because of this papal designation, the sapphire continued to be regarded as a preserver of chastity and secrecy. It protected its wearers from inharmonious influences, as well as assuring them against the contagion of plagues and threats of sorcery or poison at the hands of enemies.

The medicinal powers of the sapphire were especially applicable to relieving eye troubles or headaches caused by the eyes. A sapphire held against the part affected was supposed to give immediate relief. Weakness of the eyes following illness was curable if the sapphire or emerald could be held to them for a time. In old St. Paul's before the fire of London in 1666 was a famous sapphire presented by a certain Richard de Preston, for the use of anyone suffering from eye trouble. Smallpox patients frequently applied to it for treatment, and perhaps furthered the need for its use, as the stone was made available to all comers. The English writer, Robert Burton, said of the sapphire that it "is a great enemy to black choler, frees the mind, and mends manners." Writers consistently attribute to, the gem the power of overcoming tendencies to melancholy and irritability.

Cloudy sapphires of a bluish or gray tinge are sometimes found which even through an unpolished exterior reveal six beams: of light radiating from a point within. When cut cabochon, the star sapphire, as it is called, permits the light rays to be seen to best advantage. Along with the star ruby, the star sapphire was in primitive times regarded as a potent love charm inasmuch as six was the number sacred to Venus. It was long believed that gem stones exhibiting a moving ray of light contained a living spirit which assured good luck to the wearer.

Of recent years the star sapphire of the preferred corn-flower blue, as well as the transparent deep-blue stone, has become increasingly popular as an engagement or wedding anniversary gift. This custom follows the ancient belief that blue stones were endowed with the power of fostering constancy in love. The famous amulet of Charlemagne's wife, made of two uncut sapphires and a portion of the true cross, was held to have preserved his affection for his wife throughout her life and to have extended its influence after her death. If the wearer of the sapphire is unfaithful, the stone is believed to lose its deep tones.

In certain lands today travelers and gem buyers who go into strange territory take with them star sapphires or other stones which liave these moving rays of light. Primitive tribes refrain from harming such travelers and highly respect and protect them during their stay.

The opal was long considered the most mysterious of gems because of its blending of many colors in a fire of light which flasheia and changed as the stone was turned or the daylight waned. The modern mineralogist explains this mystery of the ancients as particles of air enclosed in the tiny cracks of the stone, causing strange refractions of light, an opalescent clashing of light rays due to their varying in density.

The opal is one of the most delicate of stones and must be handled very carefully. Because it is softer than most gems, it splits or chips easily. Also, it is very susceptible to dampness and heat. The ingredients of even fine soaps are too harsh for the delicate opal. Many owners of opals value their gems because of the fact that no two stones are ever alike. Each opal is unique.

The legend that opals are unlucky has arisen because of an incomplete understanding of the occult powers ascribed to this gem. The soothsayers of old claimed that the opal was sacred to truth and altruism; any attempt to use it for selfish ends or injury to another was doomed not only to fail but to bring ill luck to the owner. It was a stone which brought success to the wearer, giving foresight and even prophetic ability, only as long as it was used for good and unselfish ends. Then it assured a clear brain and an excellent memory to the possessor.

The opal was a favorite stone of Queen Victoria of England. On the occasion of the marriage of each of her daughters, her gift to the bride was a collection of rare opals: In 1925 Queen Mary purchased a black opal in the Australian pavilion at the Wembley Exhibition. Her choice did much to counteract a prevailing prejudice against this beautiful gem.

The opal has long been the stone most frequently chosen or worn by artists, who in the magic of its coloring can see and appreciate the beauty of sunset and moonrise, the bluegreen of the sea, and the exquisite shading of flowers. An iridescent opal has been called a beautiful poem, "to be understood by one who has attained to love for all that exists." It is a suitable stone for a gift to a relative, from father to daughter or from husband to wife. It should never be given by a lover to his sweetheart unless he has first ascertained that favorable influences exist in her horoscope.



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