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The History of Gemstones

Even in antiquity as men gazed at the shapes of crystals, whose origins they could not begin to understand or explain, it is not surprising that it was thought that these fascinating formations held supernatural powers. Fantastic origins have been suggested over the years for gemstones ... rock crystal was ice permanently frozen by intense cold ... hyacinth (a precious stone of the ancients sometimes thought to be the sapphire) was produced by the earth's extreme aridity combined with the sun's powerful action ... amber was thought to be a product of lynxes' urine and birds' tears.


In the Stone Age, primitive men became interested in gold, which was relatively easy to melt and to cast. From this the first pieces of real jewellery were made. Silver and copper were mined during the Bronze Age and jewels, ornaments and cult statuettes were made from copper, bronze and rocks of unusually striking colour or shape. The ancient Egyptians commonly inlaid gold and silver with semi-precious stones such as carnelian, jasper, amethyst, turquoise and lapis lazuli. A particularly popular jewellery item was the signet ring and many of the motifs used, such as the lotus, falcon, serpent and eye, were derived from religious symbols. Scarabs, representations of the scarab beetle carved in stone, were also popular in ancient Egypt and Rome. The Greeks made ornaments of plain gold until around 400 BC when a variety of gems and cameos (precious and semi-precious gemstones carved in relief on one layer with another contrasting layer as background) were used. Roman

jewellery was massive with ropes of pearls highly prized and Medieval jewellery included very large brooches. During the Renaissance, men and women wore gold chains, jewelled collars, and pendants, often designed and sometimes even rendered by noted artists. Ornaments crowded with stones were worn to excess in the late 17th century. Jewellery was almost superseded in the late 18th century by decorative buttons, watches and snuffboxes, but the 19th century brought the revival of the bracelet and the cameo. When factory production ofjewellery began, artistry declined and costume jewellery was
introduced by Gabrielle Chanel in the 20th century. However, there has been renewed interest in hand-wrought jewellery since the craft revival of the 1960's.


Gemstones were also widely used in the production of seals, carved dies or stamps used to mark documents or objects with a sign of official origin or ownership. Ancient seals were generally engraved with a design to be impressed on wax or damp clay. In China, however, seals carved in relief were used with ink as stamps, representing an early form of printing. In ancient Greece and Rome, seal rings and portrait seals engraved with the owner's likeness The Magic of Gemstones

became widespread. Although the use of seals declined after the fall of Rome, it was revived during the 12th century and
from then until the 18th century, heads of church and state and various civic dignitaries used seals carved with heraldic designs to stamp their documents.

Crystal balls have been produced - and highly prized - throughout recorded history. The Japanese have the highest respect for rock crystal, which they consider to be the symbol for perfection and purity, and Japanese craftsmen have produced crystal balls for centuries ... the perfect jewel cut into the perfect form. The Japanese believe that the dragon is the supreme creative power and early thought was that rock crystal was formed from the condensation of the dragon's breath. Crystal balls from high-quality rock Crystal found in the Alps were highly prized in Europe as well, though for different reasons. In Europe crystal
gazing was used not only as an aid to foreseeing the future, but as a stimulus to the mind. Musicians, authors and even politicians have benefited from self- hypnosis induced by crystal gazing.

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