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Capricorn: Turquoise and Garnet

[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 )

The word turquoise is derived from turkis, meaning turkeystone, as the earliest known turquoises reached Europe from Persia through the Turkish gem marts. Of deep celestial blue, the turquoise is still to be found mainly in Persia, though today the greenishblue stone mined in Arizona has come to be so well known that the term turquoise blue usually brings to mind the color of the Arizona stone instead of the Persian. It is the national stone of Persia, where seemingly inexhaustible mines are still being worked.

From earliest times the turquoise was one of the favorite stones for amulets. It was soft enough to be easily carved into fetish shapes, and inscriptions could be engraved and inlaid or gilded. But whether shapeless lump or carved shape, the stone was believed to have the occult power to protect its wearer from danger, to cheer the downcast, and to bring good fortune. It was particularly prized by horsemen, who wore it with the assurance that they would be saved from injury in case of a fall; others believed a turquoise on the horse's bridle would prevent its stumbling or injuring either itself or its rider.

The turquoise was considered the stone of foresight, warning its wearer of approaching illness or danger by the paling of its color. This power was firmly believed by King John, who thus detected the poison that had been administered to him. A paling stone was said to reveal to a husband the unfaithfulness of his wife, or the cooling of friends who had exchanged stones. Since a blue stone is held sacred to Venus, the turquoise, as well as lapis lazuli and sapphire, was believed to extend its magic powers of protection to lovers and married couples.

The turquoise was prized by the Tibetans, who chose it, together with amber and coral, as emblematic of good fortune, good health, and success. They valued it in ornaments for personal wear as well as for religious purposes. Today travelers in Tibet report that the turquoise may be used as money, being readily accepted by the people in barter. The belief still persists there that the paling of the turquoise portends danger to the wearer and indicates that the particular stone has lost its potency to protect. A stone of deeper tint must then be obtained. The stones which have failed their owners are dyed and sold to strangers.

A natural explanation for the paling of the turquoise is to be found in the fact that most soaps have ingredients which cause the loss of the delicate tint of the stone. Also it is known that perspiration will cause the turquoise to lose color.

Many amulets of turquoise have been found in Yucatan tombs, as well as bone amulets set with turquoise eyes and other decorations. It is believed the many pieces of turquoise found in the sacred well of Chichen Itza were thrown there as propitiatory offerings to the gods.

The turquoise was a favorite stone of the aborigines of the Southwest, because it was easy to obtain and because it possessed the green shade which they associated with growth and youth and strength. When turquoise was combined with gold, it added the symbol of the sun, the power which endowed life with vitality and longevity. They believed that a piece of turquoise on their weapons for the hunt assured plenty of game. Unless a medicine man wore turquoise charms, no Indian would listen to him. In tombs in New Mexico and Arizona many turquoise amulets have been found, indicating the custom of burying luck pieces with the dead.

In Persia and Egypt carved turquoise amulets were buried on the chest, eyes, or forehead of the dead. Some writers have thought they were placed there as prized possessions to accompany the soul on its journey through the unknown, but others have conjectured a possibility of a belief that the amulet was to have some occult influence in the after life.

The turquoise is another of the stones supposed to carry good luck with it as a gift, to be a pledge of friendship and true affection when thus given. Such qualities do not attach to the stone that has been purchased by the wearer.

Everyone remembers the valuation placed by Shylock on the turquoise carried away by his daughter: "I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys."

Garnets have from earliest times been widely used among all peoples. They are to be found commonly in many parts of the world and are soft enough to be easily worked. The color of the best stones resembles that of the ruby, which is a much harder stone. The usual garnet is a darker red, though it is also found in many tones of green, orange, cinnamon brown, and even violet.

Though the garnet has been found in most parts of the world, Bohemia was long regarded as the center of the garnet industry. Excavations in the granite ridge on which New York City is built have revealed garnets of excellent quality and color. The largest, known as the Kunz garnet, was found in Herald Square. It weighed nine and a half pounds and is now in the Natural History Museum. In other excavations on Manhattan Island as many as three thousand stones of varying sizes have been picked up as the foundation for a new building was being prepared. Gem searchers in the desert areas of the Southwest frequently find garnets on ant hills or in the dry beds of streams. Sometimes these stones are still imbedded in the rock, but often they have been washed loose by the terrific force of a cloudburst. After such storms, garnets may often be found gleaming against the duller colors of rock and sand.

The garnet was long believed to have mysterious powers of protecting the wearer from poison and pestilence, and to assure good health and comradeship if given by a friend. In Persia it was considered a talisman against injurious forces of nature, such as lightning and storm. Like many other stones, the garnet indicated the approach of danger by the paling of its hue.

Medicinally this stone was long believed to have power to relieve inflammation, the deeper shades of garnet having the stronger powers. During the middle ages the belief persisted that the garnet was its own protection against theft, visiting misfortune on the thief not only while the stone was in his possession but until it was restored to its rightful owner.

Because the garnet was not so hard to engrave or so costly as other precious stones, many were carved with the heads of emperors or gods and worn as charms. Also garnets remain to us which have been carved in designs to commemorate historical events.

From earliest times, legend has attributed to the garnet a calming influence over quarrelsome or hot-tempered people. It has long been considered the emblem of faith and constancy, assuring good spirits and cheerfulness. It is a suitable gift for parting friends to give or exchange, as it stimulates good feeling and preserves friendship. If it is also the birthstone, it is highly valued in an engagement ring. As with other gems, the garnet's occult powers are intensified if it is worn by one born under its sign.

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