The History and Folklore of Gemstones

There are numerous myths and legends associated with gems. Some tell of cursed stones; others of stones with special healing powers, or that protect or give good luck to the wearer. Some of the the largest known diamonds have legends associated with them that have been told and re-told over centuries, and many now lost, are surrounded by tales of intrigue and murder. Some mines are thought to be cursed – probably a rumour spread by the mine-owners to keep unwanted prospectors away. In Burma, for instance, where all gemstones belonged to the monarch, the belief that anyone who took a stone from a mine would be cursed may have been deliberately cultivated to curb losses of valuable national asset. Since Greek and Roman times, balls of polished rock crystals have been used to see into the future. The difficulty of finding a flawless piece large enough to be polished adds to the mystique. Certain gems have traditionally been associated with different months of the year and thought to be lucky or important for people under their “influence”. This probably stems stems from the ancient belief that gems came from the heavens. Many cultures associated gems with the sign of the Zodiac, and others with the months of the year, but the selection varies from country to country, perhaps influenced by availability of gems, local traditions and fashions. The custom of wearing birthstone jewellery started in the 18th -century in Poland and has since spread throughout the world. It is also believed that gems have healing properties and that when the light reflected of the stones are placed on vital nerve points, it is absorbed by the body and supplying the body with healing energy. Throughout times it is clear that there are more to gemstones than just their beauty.

What are Gemstones

Gemstones are generally minerals that have been, or may be fashioned to use for personal adornment. As a rule, they are beautiful, rare and durable. Minerals are inorganic materials with a fixed chemical composition and regular internal structure. A few gems, like amber and pearl, come from plants or animals and are known as organics. Others, called synthetics, do have a natural origin, but are made in laboratories. They have very similar physical properties to natural gems and may be cut to imitate the real thing. Almost all cut gems begin life in a crystalline embedded in a host rock known as the matrix. In this state, the stone is referred to as rough. Many natural crystals are attractive enough to be displayed as they are and others are faceted and polished to enhance their beauty, then set in a piece of jewellery or ornament. Some gem minerals such as quartz and garnets are found worldwide and others like diamonds and emeralds are rarer due to the more unusual geological condition necessary for their formation. Even when a mineral is found worldwide, only a minute proportion may be of gem quality.