Precious Stones - Philosophy
( Originally Published 1880 )[an error occurred while processing this directive]
WHAT, may we ask," observes a writer in the "Edinburgh Review," "have been the sources of that fascination which precious stones have, from time immemorial, exercised over the minds of men ? How comes it that, in this nineteenth century, a little diamond not half the weight of a sixpence will sell for four hundred pounds, and as small a ruby for six hundred or seven hundred ? Just as in the days of the Triumvirate, the opal of Nonias, a stone no bigger than a hazel-nut, was valued at twenty thousand pounds of our money, yet its owner went penniless into exile rather than surrender it to the greed of Marc Antony. What can thus gift these little bits of stones with such extraordinary value ? What sort of passion is it that would seem so little restrained by conscience or by reason ? To say that it is mere cupidity, is not to explain it. The imagination certainly enhances the pleasure derived from the beauty of a diamond, a ruby, a sapphire, or an emeraid, for only an eye trained by custom, or instructed by science, can distinguish these stones from their glass counterfeits. It is not, therefore, this beauty alone that gives them their value. Nor is it their adaptation for practical uses that confers on them this quality ; for, except in the limited application of diamond-dust, to what useful purposes are these stones applied ? Nor is it their mere rarity, else would an ounce of platinum be worth a thousand times more, instead of four times less, than an ounce of gold, and many a substance in nature would be precious far beyond the diamond. It is not, then, the desire merely to possess what others have not. It is rather the passion of doing what others do, and possessing what is the fashion to possess, that gives these tiny stones their price. They are pretty objects, and comparatively rare, and they have the advantage of being almost indestructible, in consequence of their hardness. But what makes them worth many pounds a grain is, that they have acquired by tradition a prestige which fashion perpetuates—a prestige rooted in strange attributes and mystic powers, wherewith the fancies of five thousand years have endowed such stones—a passion that has been ever pandered to by a harpy host of money-making parasites, and has been fostered by that human weakness which, while endeavouring to associate what is pretty with what is costly in the materials chosen for personal ornament, is apt to attach more importance to their price than to their real beauty, in proportion as cupidity is a passion more common than refinement or taste."
Renodeus, quoted by Burton in his "Anatomy of Melancholy," admires precious stones because they adorn kings' crowns, grace the fingers, enrich our household stuff, defend us from enchantments, preserve health, cure diseases ; they drive away grief, cares, and exhilarate the mind."
" There are," says Bacon, in his " Sylva Sylvarum," " many things that operate upon the spirits of man by secret sympathy and antipathy. That precious stones have virtues in the wearing, has been anciently and generally received, and they are said to produce several effects. So much is true, that gems have fine spirits, as appears by their splendour, and therefore may operate, by consent, on the spirits of men, to strengthen and exhilarate them. The best stones for this purposc are the diamond, the emerald, the hyacinth, and the yellow topaz. As for their particular properties, no credit can be given to them. But it is manifest that light, above all things, rejoices the spirits of men; and, probably, varied light has the same effect, with greater novelty ; which may be one cause why precious stones exhilarate."
Plato, whose vast intelligence has made him so illustrious, gives a romantic idea of the origin of precious stones. He admits that, real animated substances, they were produced by a species of fermentation determined by the action of a vivifying intelligence descending from the stars. He describes the diamond as being a kernel formed in the gold, and supposed it was the part the most noble and the purest that was condensed in a transparent mass.
Theophrastus, a disciple of Aristotle, divides stones into two sexes, male and female.
It is to Dioscorides that the mystic virtues of precious stones had their full development.
" In good sooth," says De Boot, " I am fain to confess that supernatural effects are after this fashion produced, God having permitted that it should be so. But, as I have already said, this is done by evil spirits, who take up their abode in the substance of the precious stones, constrained thereunto by the vain credulousness of man, and by a pagan impiousness ; taking undue advantage of the stone, to the end that they may conceal or annihilate its natural faculties, rendering them unrecognizable, and substituting in their place false ones, and by these means leading man to vanities and superstitions, making him forsake the true worship of God, subjecting him to their will, and losing his soul to all eternity. Those, therefore, who would attract good spirits to inhabit their gems, and benefit by their presence in them, let them have the martyrdom of Our Saviour, the actions of His life, which teach virtue by example, graven upon their jewels ; and let them often contemplate them piously; without doubt, with the grace of God and the assistance of good spirits, they will find, that not in the stone only, or the graven image, but from God, are its admirable qualities."
In Gargantua's noble letter to his son, Pantagruel, on the thirst for knowledge, he is recommended to give himself " curiously," amongst other matters, " to all the metals that are hid in the bowels of the earth, together with the precious stones that are to be seen in the east and south of the world."
Sir Thomas More, in " Utopia," ridicules the ornaments then worn on hats : " When the Anatolian ambassadors arrived, the children, seeing them with pearls in their hats, said to their mothers, ` See, mother, how they wear pearls and precious stones as if they were children again.' ` Hush,' returned the mothers, ` those are not the ambassadors, but ye ambassadors' fools.' "
He tells us, also, that his Utopians " find pearls on their coasts, and diamonds and carbuncles on their rocks ; they do not look after them, but, if they find any by chance, they polish them, and therewith adorn their children, who are delighted with and glory in them in their childhood, but when they grow to years, and see that none but children use such baubles, they, of their own accord, without being bid by their parents, lay them aside, and would be as much ashamed to use them afterwards, as children amongst us, when they come to years, are of nuts, puppets, and other toys. These Utopians wonder how any man should be so much taken with the glaring doubtful lustre of a jewel or a stone that can look up to a star or the sun itself."
" The Utopians have no better opinion of those who are much taken with gems and precious stones, and who account it a degree of happiness next to a divine one, if they can purchase one that is very extraordinary, especially if it be of that sort of stones that is then in greatest request ; for the same sort is not at all times of the same value with all sorts of people ; nor will men buy it unless it be dismounted and taken out of the gold. And then the jeweller is made to give good security, and required solemnly to swear that the stone is true, and that by such an exact caution, a false one may not be bought instead of a true ; whereas if you were to examine it, your eye could find no difference between that which is counterfeit and that which is true ; so that they are all one to you, as much as if you were blind."
There is the usual quiet satire in this, as in More's other studies of mankind, and levelled more against the extravagant display of jewels which particularly distinguished the period in which the learned chancellor of Henry VIII. flourished. No doubt the excessive luxury of dress, the absorbing passion to excel others in rare and costly decorations, lead to habits of dissipation and folly ; still precious stones, those wonderful productions of nature, have been of invaluable advantage to mankind in assisting the development of art, and exercising in countless ways the skill and ingenuity of man. The antique gems that enrich the cabinets of collectors are models of beauty and perfection to the artist and the man of taste, and have been the means of adding greatly to our historical and antiquarian knowledge.
Sir Thomas More, however, was one of those men who practised what he preached. " His sonne John's wife often had requested her father-in-law, Sir Thomas, to buy her a billiment sett with pearls. He had often put her off with many pretty slights ; but, at last, for her importunity, he provided her one. Instead of pearles, he caused white peaze to be sett, so that at his next coming home, his daughter-in-law demanded her jewel. ` Ay, marry, daughter, I have not for-gotten thee !' So out of his studie he sent for a box, and solemnlie delivered it to her. When she, with great joy, lookt for her billiment, she found, far from her expectation, a billiment of peaze ; and so she almost wept for verie griefe. But her father gave her so good a lesson, that never after she had any great desire to weare anie new toye."
The early fathers of the Church were diffuse in their denunciations of extravagant jewellery. St. Cyprian (A.D. 200-258) says : " It is a great crime for virgins to adorn themselves with gold and gems, but " (alluding to the early martyrs) " fires, crosses, swords, or wild beasts, are the precious jewels of the flesh, and better ornaments for the body, and much to be preferred to those which attract the eyes of young men and inflame their passions."
St. Gregory of Nazianzum, extolling his sister for her simplicity, says: "She had no gold to adorn herself, nor yellow hair tied in knots, and arranged in curls, no transparent garnets, brilliant stones, or jewels."
Towards the close of the fourteenth century lived a French nobleman, named Geoffroy de Latour-Landry. He was old in 1371, and had three daughters. His whole thoughts were engrossed upon the perils to which they would be exposed in the event of his death, from their inexperience of the world and their remarkable beauty of person. With the object of warning them against the blandishments of the world, he composed a collection of wise thoughts and sayings to guide them under the various circumstances of life. Each of his arguments is supported from examples taken from the New Testament, fables, and from events that had happened to his own personal friends. The work is very curious, but I must confine myself to that portion which treats upon extravagence in dress and jewel decorations. A story is told of a knight who had had three wives, and was the nephew of a hermit. When he lost his first spouse he went to his uncle weeping, and asked him to pray to God that he might know what fate was reserved for her. After a long prayer, the hermit fell asleep and saw, in a dream, St. Michael on one side and the devil on the other, who were disputing the possession of the soul of the defunct. The magnificent dresses worn by the lady when living weighed heavily in the balance in favour of the devil. " Hé ! Saint Michel, disait celui-ci, cette femme avait dix paires de robes, tant longues que courtes, et autant de cottes-hardies. Vous savez bien que la moitié aurait pu lui suffire ! Une robe longue, deux courtes, deux cottes-hardies sont assez pour une dame simple ; encore, peut-elle en avoir moins, afin de plaire â Dieu : cinquante pauvres eussent été vétus avec le prix d'une de ces robes ; pendant l'hiver ils ont grelotté de froid ! " The devil brought the robes and placed them in the balance, with all the jewels that had been worn, while living, by the deceased, and the weight was so great that the devil gained his point, and covered his victim with the dresses, now fiery, and which would burn for ever. The hermit told this vision to his nephew, and advised him to give all the dresses and jewels to be sold for the benefit of the poor.
At the commencement of the fifteenth century, the pride of dress and costly jewellery excited the wrath of the moralists. In the visions of " Patrick's Purgatory," by William Staunton, which the writer declares he saw at that celebrated spot in 1409, an alarming picture is given of the punishments inflicted on those people who were proud and vain and delighted in extravagant apparel. He says :—" I saw some there with collars of gold about their necks, and some of silver, and some men I saw with gory girdles of silver and gold and harneist horns about their necks ; some with wire jagges on their clothes ; some had their clothes full of gingles and belles of silver all overset, and some with long pokes (bags) in their sleeves, and women with gowns trayling behind them a great space, and some others with gay chaplets on their heads of gold and pearls and other precious stones. ... I saw also their gay chaplets of gold, of pearls and other precious stones, turned into nails of iron burning, and fiends with burning hammers smiting them into their heads."
" Ah, swete husbandys," say the female souls in Purgatory, in the supplication made for them by Sir Thomas More, " whyle we lyved there in that wreched world wyth you, whyle ye were glad to please us, ye bestowed mych uppon us, and put yourselfe to greate coste, and dyd us great harme therwyth ; wyth gay gownis, and gay kyrtles, and mych waste in appareil, rynges and owchys, with partelettys and pastys garnished wyth perle, wyth whych proude pykynge up, both ye toke hurte and we to, many mo ways then one, though we told you not so than. But two thynges were there specyall, of whych yourselfe felt then the tone, and we fele now the tother, For ye had us the hygher harted and the more stoburn to you, and God had us in Iesse favour, and this alak we fele. For now that gay gare burneth uppon our bakkes ; and those prowd perled pastis hang hote about our chekys ; those partelettes and those owchis hang hevy about our nekkes, and cleve fast fyrehote ; that wo be we there, and wyshe that whyle we lyved, ye never had followed our fantasyes, nor never had so kokered us, nor made us so wanton, nor had geven us other ouchys than ynyons, or gret garlyk heddes, nor other perles for our partelettys and our pastys than fayre oryent peason. But now for as mych as that ys passed, and cannot be called agayn, we besech you syth ye gave them us, let us have them styli. Let them hurt none other woman, but help to do us good ; sell them for our sakys to set in sayntis copys, and send the money hether by masse pennys, and by pore men that may pray for our soulys."—(Supplycacyon of Soulys.)
In John Gaule's " Distractions " (1629), we have a portrait of my Lady Goe-gay :—" We gaze with greedinesse and delight upon a curious and glorious sepulchre ; and yet, notwithstanding, we conceive and abhorre what is within. .. . Oh! blot not out the lovely image of God in faining and framing so vaine a shaping to yourselves ! How she glittered (fore-head, eares, bosome, wrists, and fingers) in her gems, jewels, bracelets, and rings ! She likened her lustre to the moone and stars ; and thought her lesse clay, when so bedaubed with a polished rubbish. Who might then prize her worth, that bare many good men's estates upon her little finger? She little considered how many fingers were worne and wearied, to make that one finger shine. This is not only one of our vanities, but one of our superstitions ; that we can (against our reason and knowledge) believe that the whole substance of a great patrimony may be valuably transubstantiated into the quantity of a little stone. Gemmes, what are they, but gums or the accretions or congelations of brighter water and earth ? They come but from a more subtle compacted sulphur and mercury ; and yet we thinke the very heavens concurred with the earth to their commixtion ; and so the sunne left part of his shining in them. Mere notionall is their value, which is in the opinion, not in the thing: they are worth nothing, only if you can but thinke them so. The merchant's adventure hath transported them, the lapidaries' crafte hath polished them, the vaine man's credulity bath esteemed them, and the rich man's superfluitie hath enhaunced them. These be but rich men's gaudy trifles ; as the painted gee-gawes bee for their children."
In the " Maid in the Mill " of Beaumont and Fletcher (act iii., sc. 2), we find :
" Ye fools that wear gay clothes, love to be gaped at,
In Shirley's " Lady of Pleasure," Bornwell tells the prodigal lady: __
Geoffry Whitney, the earliest of our English emblematic writers, says : __
" In christal towers, and turrets richly set
Addison, in the " Spectator " (No. 295), satirizes the extravagance of pin-money: __
" Socrates, in Plato's ` Alcibiades,' says, he was in-formed by one who had travelled through Persia, that as he passed over a tract of lands, and inquired what the name of the place was, they told him it was the queen's girdle ; to which he adds, that another wide field which lay by it, was called the queen's veil ; and that in the same manner there was a large portion of ground set aside for every part of her Majesty's dress. These lands might not be improperly called the Queen of Persia's pin-money.
" I remember my friend Sir Roger, who I dare say never read this passage in Plato, told me some time since, that upon his courting the perverse widow (of whom I have given account in former papers), he had disposed of an hundred acres in a diamond ring, which he would have presented her with, had she thought fit to accept it ; and that upon her wedding day, she should have carried on her head fifty of the tallest oaks upon his estate. He further informed me that he would have given her a coal-pit to keep her in clean linen, that he would have allowed her the profits of a windmill for her fans, and have presented her once in three years with the shearing of his sheep for her under-petticoats. To which the Knight always adds, that though he did not care for fine clothes himself, there should not have been a woman in the country better dressed than my lady Coverley."
The story of " Golden Poverty," by Fuller, shows to what length the lust for wealth will reach :—" Pythis, a king, having discovered rich mines in his kingdom, employed all his people in digging of them, whence tilling was wholly neglected, insomuch as a great famine ensued. His queen, sensible of the calamities of the country, invited the king, her husband, to dinner, as he came home hungry from overseeing his workmen in the mines. She so contrived it that the bread and meat were most artificially made of gold ; and the king was much delighted with the conceit thereof, till at last he called for real meat to satisfy his hunger. ` Nay,' said the queen, ` if you employ all your subjects in your mines you must expect to feed upon gold ; for nothing else can your kingdom afford.' "
An old writer has observed that the treasures which the surface of the earth prodigally bestows upon us, are infinitely more valuable than all the metals and precious stones it contains in its bowels. Society might subsist without gold, silver, or jewels, but not without corn, vegetables, and pasture.
Fuller, in his quaint and interesting essays, says of a controversialist divine, as he ought to be :—" He is not curious in searching matters of no moment. Captain Martin Frobisher fetched from the farthest northern countries a ship's lading of mineral stones (as he thought), which afterwards were cast out to mend the highways. Thus are they served, and miss their hopes, who, long seeking to extract hidden mysteries out of nice questions, leave them off as use-less at last."
In the sumptuary laws of Florence the old burgh-ers forbade indulgences in dress and ornament. " No woman of any condition whatever may dare, or presume in any way in the city, suburbs, or districts of Florence, to wear pearls, mother-of-pearl, or precious stones, on the head or shoulders, or on any other part of the person, or on any dress which may be worn on the person."
The vanity of hoarding wealth in gold, silver, and precious stones, was never more painfully illustrated than in a remarkable instance recorded in the earliest periods of the world's history. This is given in " Biblical Monuments," by Dr. Rule and J. C. Anderson (1871-1873). In Genesis xli. 56, 57, we read :
The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians ; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to buy corn, because that the famine was so sore in all lands."
But Joseph could not empty the storehouses of Egypt to satisfy the cravings of all lands, nor sell away the bread of Egypt at any price when money became less precious than bread.
Such was the state of things when an Arabian princess in Yemen wrote, or when in her name were written, to be inscribed on her sepulchre, some impressive lines. Ebn Hesham relates that a flood of rain had laid bare a sepulchre in Yemen, in which lay a woman having on her neck seven collars of pearls, and on her hands and feet bracelets and armlets, and ankle-rings seven on each, and on every finger a ring on which was set a jewel of great price, and at her head a coffer filled with treasure, and a tablet with an inscription, thus translated by Mr. Forster : ___
" In thy name, O God, the God of Himyar,
Inexorable with the Arabian princess, severe with his own brethren, proof against the blandishments of Potiphar's wife, yet susceptible of every pure and generous affection, Joseph, the saviour of Egypt, was ever consistent with himself.
It is curious that we find in Forbes' India a coincidence to this singular circumstance. Speaking of Cambaya, he says : " The finest mausoleum was erected to the memory of a Mogul of great rank, who, during a famine which almost depopulated that part of the country, offered a measure of pearls for an equal quantity of grain ; but not being able to procure food at any price, he died of hunger, and this history is related on his monument."
In Martene and Durand's ecclesiastical collections, there is a terrible story of setting jewels, gold, and silver before a captive caliph, in mockery, and letting him die of hunger.
When Morales and Pizarro, in 1515, were at one of the South Sea Islands, named by Nunez, Isla-Rica, the cacique, wishing to ingratiate them, brought as a peace-offering a basket filled with pearls of great beauty. Among these were two of extraordinary size and value. The cacique considered himself repaid by a present of hatchets, beads, and bells, and on the Spaniards smiling at his joy, he observed, " These things I can turn to useful purposes, but of what value are those pearls to me ? " Rare philosophy unknown to modern times.
The worthlessness of the most precious stones in a place where the comforts of life are not to be purchased, is shown in Washington Irving's " Conquest of Florida by Fernando de Soto." " In the course of their weary march throughout this desolate tract, a foot-soldier calling to a horseman who was his friend, drew forth from his wallet a linen bag, in which were six pounds of pearls, probably filched from one of the Indian sepulchres. These he offered as a gift to his comrade, being heartily tired of carrying them on his back. The horseman refused to accept so thoughtless an offer, ` Keep them yourself,' he said, ` you have most need of them. The Governor intends shortly to send messengers to Havanna, where you can forward these presents, and have them sold, and obtain three or four horses with the proceeds ; so that you will then have no further need to travel on foot.' Juan Terron was piqued at having his offer refused, `Well,' said he, `if you will not have them, I swear I will not carry them, and they shall remain here.' So saying, he untied the bag, and whirling it round, as if he were sowing seed, scattered the pearls in all directions among the thickets and herbage. Then putting up the bag in his wallet, as if it were more valuable than the pearls, he marched on, leaving his comrades and other bystanders astonished at his folly. The soldiers made a hasty search for the scattered pearls, and recovered thirty of them. When they beheld their great size and beauty, none of them being bored or discoloured, they lamented that so many had been lost, for the whole would have been sold in Spain for more than six thousand ducats. This egregious folly gave rise to a common proverb in the army, that ` There are no pearls for Juan Terron:
This may be called literally pearls going a-begging.
Vaughan, in his " Olor Iscanus " (1651), observes :
"Alas, who was it that first found
Abderhaman II., who ruled Mohammedan Spain in the ninth century, had a mistress of surpassing beauty, round whose neck, in one of his passionate moments, he threw a diamond chain of immense value. Some of his prudent counsellors represented to him that he had been too lavish in his bounty—that the chain should have been placed in the treasury against a time of need. " The brilliancy of the neck-lace," replied the enamoured king, "has dazzled you ; you are just like the rest of men—you place an immense value on things which, in reality, have no value at all. What are these diamonds when compared with the elegance and beauty of a lovely woman ? "
In the same spirit of reasoning, we have the opinion of Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, a lady of the last century : " Surely, of all vanities, that of jewels is the most ridiculous ; they do not even tend to the order of dress, beauty, and cleanliness ; for a woman is not a jot the handsomer or cleaner for them."
Thomas Walker, the " Original," observes, " that Nature is the true guide in our application of ornament. She delights in it, but ever in subserviency to use. With the refined few, simplicity is the feature of greatest merit in ornament. The trifling, the vulgar-minded, and the ignorant prize only what is costly and striking—something showy in contrast, and difficult to be obtained. Nothing can more severely or more truly satirize this taste than the fancy of the negro chief in the interior of Africa, who received an Englishman's visit of eeremony in a drummer's jacket and a judge's wig. I always think of this personage when I see a lady loaded with jewels ; and if I had a wife, and she had such encumbrances, from the anxiety of which I saw no other chance of her being relieved, I should heartily rejoice in one of those mysterious disappearances which have been so frequent of late, and which, it may be, have sometimes originated in a feeling on the part of husbands similar to mine."
An Ionian woman of distinction, after displaying her jewels, her bracelets, and many expensive, articles of dress, to the wife of Phocion, remarked the plainness of her attire, and asked to see her jewels. " My only ornament," replied the Grecian matron, " is Phocion, who has been for twenty years general of the Athenians."
Mary, third daughter of Henry VII., after being wooed by the Prince of Castile, was married, from motives of mere state policy, to Louis XII. of France. When the Earl of Worcester went over to Paris to arrange the marriage, he wrote a letter to Wolsey, describing how the French king had shown him a chest containing fifty-six pieces of rubies and diamonds, and another goodly coffer full of collars, bracelets, and beads. " All these are for my wife," said Louis, " but she shall not have them all at once, as I would have many kisses and thanks for them."
In 1504 (Oct. 12th), that great and distinguished sovereign, Queen Isabella of Spain, made the celebrated testament which reflects so clearly the peculiar qualities of her mind and character. It concludes with an affecting passage of conjugal tenderness :—" I beseech the king, my lord, that he will accept all my jewels, or such as he shall select, so that seeing them, he may be reminded of the singular love I always bore him while living, and that I am now waiting for him in a better world ; by which remembrance he may be encouraged to live the more justly and holily in this."
In a similar spirit, the true value of jewels, as souvenirs of affection, is shown in the will of the late Earl Stanhope, in which he gives certain diamonds to his daughter-in-law, Evelyn (the present Countess Stanhope), for her life, stating that in so doing, it is, in accordance with the wishes of his late wife, as expressed in a memorandum, in which she sets forth that the jewels were part value of the deceased peer's published works, and as such she was very proud of them. After the death of the countess, the diamonds were to be made heir-looms, to pass with the title.
Among the spoils brought from the province called the Golden Castile, by Fernando Cortez, were five emeralds, then valued at one hundred thousand crowns. The first was cut in the shape of a rose, with its leaves ; the second in that of a hunting-horn ; the third in that of a fish, with golden eyes ; the fourth was a bell, the clapper of which was a large pear-shaped pearl ; and the fifth, the most precious of all, was a cup on a golden foot, with four small gold chains attached to a large pearl, by which the jewel was hung as an orna-ment to the person. These jewels probably entailed their owner's loss of court favour. The empress-queen expressed a desire to have them, but the conqueror of Mexico was about to be married to a pretty woman, and preferred to make her a present of them.
Queen Charlotte (consort of George III.) in a confidential conversation with Miss Burney, in 1762, talking of her jewels, said : " I thought at first I should always love to wear them, but the fatigue and trouble of putting them on, and the care they require, with the fear of losing them, made me in a fortnight's time long for my earlier dress, and I wished never to have them more." There is a vein of philosophy in this, but, like the great Queen Elizabeth, she yielded to the seduction of rare and costly jewels to such an extent, that gossip declared her favour, in the way of appointments, might be won through a present of jewellery.
However, Walpole, in his history of the reign of George III., mentions a trait of character which does honour to the Queen. It seems that George III., in the early part of his marriage, took pleasure in presenting his young consort with jewels, and seeing her wear them. Once only she begged to lay them on one side. It had been one of the injunctions of her late mother that on the occasion of her being a communicant at the altar as Queen of England, she should receive the sacrament unadorned with jewels, and without parade. " The king," says Walpole, " indulged her, but Lady Augusta, carrying this tale to her mother, the princess obliged the king to insist on the jewels being worn, and the poor young queen's tears and terrors could not dispense with her obedience."
We are told in the life of the Empress Josephine that shortly before her death she was showing some friends her magnificent jewels which had been presented to her by the Emperor Napoleon, and observed, " During the first dawn of my extraordinary elevation I delighted in these trifles, but by degrees I grew so tired of them that I no longer wear any, except when I am, in some respects, compelled to do so by my new rank in the world ; a thousand accidents may, besides, contribute to deprive me of those brilliant, though useless objects. Do I not possess the pendants of Queen Marie Antoinette ? And yet am I quite sure of retaining them ? Trust to me, ladies, and do not envy a splendour which does not constitute happiness."
In 1827 the celebrated actress, Mademoiselle Mars, who had a costly collection of precious stones, and who was frequently announced in the playbills as " wearing all her diamonds," was, in a romantic manner robbed of her jewels. She was absent from home at the time, and Armand, the comic actor, was deputed to inform her of the loss, and to break the news so as not to cause her too violent a shock. Instead of taking this precaution, he addressed her in a tragic tone, and said, " My dear friend, have you courage ? You will need it—prepare yourself, you have been robbed of all your jewels !" With philosophical resignation, Mademoiselle Mars replied, " Is that all ? You really made me fear a much greater misfortune ! "
Gustaf III. (crowned King of Sweden 1771) when in Italy purchased two large diamonds, a ruby, and some pearls the young Pretender had pledged. After a long negotiation the king gave them up, noting in his own hand, " Est fait l'inventaire et la livraison depuis sept heures du soir de ces éternels diamans et bijoux. Laus Deo qu'enfin tout soit fini."
As costly " playthings " some have amused them-selves with jewels.
It is related of the eccentric Prince Potemkin that in his latter days, tired of a life of dissipation and turbulence, he would sit alone on the long winter evenings, before a table covered with black velvet. Then having his diamonds brought, of which he had a prodigious quantity, he would continue for hours amusing himself, like a child, in placing them one after another in the form of circles, crosses, and fanciful figures, considering each before he placed it, and then admiring the situation of it, or removing it to another. On one of these evenings the thought occurred to him to weigh the diamonds ; they were found to amount to several pounds ; the most remarkable were what composed an epaulette of brilliants to the value of eight hundred and fifty thousand roubles ; another of coloured stones of three hundred thousand ; perfect rubies weighing from thirty-five to thirty-six carats, of inestimable value ; the picture of the Empress Catherine II., pendant to yellow and black diamonds, in imitation of the ribbon of the Order of St. George, etc. He frequently amused himself by pouring his diamonds out of one hand into the other, as children play with little shells.
An honourable trait of character is related by Froissart of the chivalric Sir Walter Manny, who was taken prisoner in France while travelling with a pass-post from the Duke of Normandy. The latter, indignant at this outrage to one who was, for a time, under his protection, applied to the King of France for his release, declaring that unless this was granted he would never serve again in his armies. " There was a knight from Hainault, named Sir Mansart d'Aisnes, who was eager to serve Sir Walter, but had great difficulty in getting access to the Duke of Normandy ; however, the king was, at last, advised to let Sir Walter out of prison, and to pay him all his expenses. The king would have Sir Walter to dine with him at the Hotel de Nesle, at Paris, when he presented him with gifts and jewels to the amount of a thousand florins. Sir Walter accepted them upon condition, that when he got to Calais, he should inform the king, his lord, of it, and if it were agreeable to his pleasure he would keep them, otherwise he would send them back. The king and duke said he had spoken like a loyal knight. Sir Walter then took leave of them, and on arriving at Calais was well received by the King of England, who on being informed by Sir Walter of the presents he had had from the King of France, said, ` Sir Walter, you have hitherto loyally served us, and we hope you will continue to do so ; send back to Philip his presents, for you have no right to keep them ; we have enough, thank God, for you and ourselves, and are perfectly well disposed to do you all the good in our power for the services you have rendered us.' Sir Walter took out all the jewels, and giving them to his cousin, the Lord of Mansac, said, ` Ride into France to King Philip, and recommend me to him, and tell him that I thank him many times for the fine jewels he presented me with, but it is not agreeable to the will and pleasure of the King of England, my lord, that I retain them.' The knight did as he was commanded, but the King of France would not take back the jewels. He gave them to the Lord of Mansac."