While fine jewelry is usually high in monetary value, what often makes it exceptional is that it’s steeped in significance. A piece of jewelry frequently has a particular aura that does not fade; it is with it that we mark the milestones of our lives—engagement, marriage, friendships, parenthood, birthdays, travels, traditions, and love.
Jewelry, some argue, emblematizes the sublime.
When we consider some of the materials jewelry is made with—metals derived from the earth’s crust and gemstones, which, like crystals, have significant metaphysical properties—it’s hard to deny the cosmic allure.
These materials have been honored, according to Maria Leach’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, “back beyond recorded history.” Ancient Roman texts note that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with magical diamonds. In Eastern narratives, dragons were often depicted with flaming, wish-granting pearls under their chins or in their claws. In early written accounts, people adorned themselves with feathers, bones, shells, and colored pebbles. We now, of course, refer to these arrangements of naturally occurring materials as jewelry—and now, the colored pebbles are known as gemstones.
Here, a look at the history of some favorite gemstones and their mythological meanings.
In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.” In ancient Hinduism, it was believed by some that those who offered fine rubies to the god Krishna could be reborn as emperors. Rubies were divided into four castes. The Brahmin, for example, granted the advantage of perfect safety. The stone is also mentioned at least four times in the Bible, usually as a representative of beauty and wisdom. Numerous early cultures believed, because of the stone’s likeness to the color of blood, that rubies held the power of life. Among European royalty and the upper classes, rubies were thought to guarantee good health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love. They’ve became some of the most sought-after gems.
Lapis lazuli has always been associated with royalty and deities, and it may be where the idea of royal blue came from. Egyptians believed that it came from the heavens and provided protection in the afterlife, so they used it in their statues of the gods, in totemic objects, in jewelry, and in burial masks. In the epic poem Gilgamesh, Sumerians spent years traveling from one end of Asia to the other in order to mine and obtain the stone. Lapis is included in numerous other myths but has served practical purposes as well: Ancient Egyptians used it to create blue cosmetics, and during the Renaissance, painters ground the