Superstition, beliefs and magical power of gemstones

 

Byzantium has had a great influence on some habits and beliefs in the Western world. One is the superstitious ability to repel spells, with precious substances worn by the believer.


sapphirePrecious stones were especially appreciated for their ability to heal. Agate protected against snakes; emerald cured palpitations of the heart; hyacinth protected from the plague or from thunder; sapphire encouraged chastity and reduced lustful desire; amethyst enlightened men; and turquoise protected riders from falls. In the East, the armatures on the horses were decorated with blue turquoise to protect the rider and horse from falling, and to protect the horse against cold water that he might drink.  These superstitions induced some social classes to wear certain gemstones or jewels, whereas the others were forbidden.


ruby and diamond ring from jeweller Rami AbboudThe ruby was the stone of the nobility, and because of its red colour, also the colour of “noble blood,” other classes were forbidden from wearing it.
Only the clergy and the royal crowned heads could wear amethyst or sapphire. All these stones had a symbolic meaning attached to their colour. Blue is a colour that was often associated with the Virgin Mary and was considered saintly. Thus, blue gems only belonged to the most important persons of Europe. Stones with similar tints were often considered identical. For several centuries, the ruby was also confused with spinel coming from the East, and also called a balas ruby. Certain royal crowns confused these gemstones. The Black Prince’s Ruby, which always decorated the British crown, is a red spinel or balas ruby and not a genuine ruby. Also at the top of the imperial crown of Russia rests a huge 414-carat weight balas ruby. This spinel was bought for the Tsar Alexis by the ambassador to the court of China, Nicolas Spahany, in the 17th century.


The science of precious stones was completely undeveloped. In spite of their good faith efforts, even specialists made numerous confusions between stones and imitations. The counterfeit market originated in the Middle Ages and incited the trafficking of false stones, which became a flourishing business, even if the law tried to forbid them. To contain this new market, beginning in the 13th century regulations were enacted to limit the display of ornaments. Nevertheless, imitations were often employed on children's jewels and on unimportant pieces. Even royal clothes were decorated with imitations during the funeral of a deceased; just as gem imitations were found in the grave of King Edward I, from England.


In 1331, an edict was signed in Paris, which was then the capital of false gems, to oppose the forgery of pearls, precious stones and stones doublets. But even this law could not help much to the falsification. So falsifications is not only a problem of our times.  

 

Texts ©World Luxury Jewellers, picture blue sapphire: PD; picture ring with ruby from jewellery designer Rami Abboud.
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