From the earliest period when people began to recognize the beauty of certain stones, they also ascribed to them certain supernatural properties as charms and talismans.

And as far we can see, they wore some materials taken in the form of a stone as an amulet to guard them from the ills, real or imaginary. The wearing of such amulets is, in all probability, older than the wearing of the jewellery and probably the one grew by insensible steps out of the other. As he advanced in culture, he shaped these bits of stone into increasingly regular forms, and finally as an added fetish, he scratched on them images of his gods and invocations to them. Some of the earliest of these amulets are the little cylinders that were used as seal among Assyrians, Persians and Babylonians. Many of these materials are esteemed today for their beauty as mediums for small carvings. Lapis lazuli, amazon stone, chalcedony, hematite were often used for these amulets. Later the cutting of the stone consisted in design of figures of gods, man, animals and also of inscriptions in cuneiform characters. The inscription often gave the name of the wearer, of his father and of his god.


In Egypt the amulet took often the form of the well-known scarab. The sacred beetle replaced the heart in the mummies of the Egyptian dead. Another powerful charm took the form of an eye or wings usually fashioned from lapis lazuli, carnelian, chalcedony, amazon stone or manufactured with inlaid gemstones as this item here above.


The form of engraved amulets that was much used in Persia is of a broad flat type, known as a Persian seal. The Mohammedan code forbids the depicting of natural objects as men or beasts, so the engravers of these amulets were restrained from using the symbolism found among those other cultures. All of them were engraved in Arabic characters with texts from the Koran. It is without no doubt that the necklace is one of the oldest ornaments and that beads of gemstones were used as amulets and charms. Often beads and amulets were recut to more modern shapes. This is an interesting consideration concerning the antiquity of gem stones, that is, what has become of the jewellery of our ancestor. Some of them have passed on to the descendants as family heirlooms, but comparatively little of it is accounted for in this way. A lot find its way into the hands of buyers of old jewellery and the good stones are resold, reset and perhaps recut. It would be interesting if we could trace the history of every gemstone: some may have been mined last year, but others may be centuries old. In other words a gem never loses its distinct character as such. The emeralds that graced Cleopatra are probably in existence somewhere in the world today…..


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