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Egyptian Amber Ring - History
When you put on a piece of jewelry, you probably focus on how it looks with your outfit or what it says about your style. Perhaps some jewelry pieces have sentimental value to you, such as a ring passed down from your grandmother. While jewelry has always been a way to adorn the body, it also has significant meaning and symbolism. The meaning of jewelry varies based on the piece, materials used and even the country. Explore the symbolism of jewelry from cultures around the world to better understand your own jewelry pieces.
Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750&ndash1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922. (CC0 1.0))
There&rsquos a long list of things we can thank the ancient Egyptians for inventing, and one of them is the color blue. Considered to be the first ever synthetically produced color pigment, Egyptian blue (also known as cuprorivaite) was created around 2,200 B.C. It was made from ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, which was then heated between 1470 and 1650°F. The result was an opaque blue glass which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.
The Egyptians held the hue in very high regard and used it to paint ceramics, statues, and even to decorate the tombs of the pharaohs. The color remained popular throughout the Roman Empire and was used until the end of the Greco-Roman period (332 BC&ndash395 AD), when new methods of color production started to evolve.
Figure of a Lion. ca. 1981&ndash1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922. (CC0 1.0))
Fun fact: In 2006, scientists discovered that Egyptian blue glows under fluorescent lights, indicating that the pigment emits infrared radiation. This discovery has made it a lot easier for historians to identify the color on ancient artifacts, even when it&rsquos not visible to the naked eye.
“Fragrance of the Gods” Incense in Ancient Egypt
Fragrance has permeated the land and culture of Egypt for millennia. Beautiful scents and the burning of incense were intrinsic to the worship of the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Large quantities of a variety of herbs and woods was burned daily in the temples throughout Egypt. The numerous reliefs and papyri depicting incense sticks, burning ceremonies, offerings to the gods, are proof of the important role of scents and incenses. Incense provided the embodiment of life and an aromatic manifestation of the gods. The Pharaohs cultivated incense trees and imported expensive resins to satisfy the needs of Egypt’s prolific temples and tombs.
Cultivating the Incense Trees
Incense was considered the “Fragrance of the Gods” and the most common depictions of incense in ancient Egypt come from tombs and temples where many scenes present a pharaoh or priest offering incense to a mummy or the statue of a God or Goddess. The smoking incense stick often takes the shape of a human arm ending in a hand holding a charcoal-filled bowl.
A 19th Dynasty relief from the temple of Seti I at Abydos provides a classic example of the use of incense. Seti leans forward towards a statue of Amun-Re, his right hand pouring water over a bouquet of lotus flowers while his left hand wafts smoke from an arm-shaped incense stick (censer) towards the god. The incense signifies reverence and prayer and on a deeper level it evokes the actual presence of the deity by creating the “fragrance of the gods.”
Offering Incense to Amun-Ra (Re)
The Egyptians carefully bought, transported, and stored their frankincense and myrrh, treating the pieces of resin like emblems of their gods’ bodies. Hatchepsut immortalized her expensive expeditions to Punt on the walls of her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri showing rows of men carry incense trees back to Egypt so that the sacred precinct could have the “Odor of the Divine Land.”
Carrying the Incense Seedlings to Egypt
The Ancient Egyptians worshiped the God of fragrance, Nefertum, meaning the “beautiful one who does not close” and in Egyptian mythology he represented both the first sunlight and the delightful scent of the Egyptian blue lotus flower. Nefertem was seen as the son of the creator God Ptah and the Goddess Bastet. In art, he was usually depicted as a beautiful young man having blue water-lily flowers around his head. As the son of Bastet, he also sometimes has the head of a lion or is a lion or cat reclining. The ancient Egyptians often carried small statuettes of him as good-luck charms.
Secret recipes for incense were carved on the walls of the temple of Horus at Edfu. In the Papyrus Ebers there is a recipe to “sweeten the smell of the house or the clothes” which includes myrrh, frankincense, wood bark, other ground herbs, mixed together with liquid (honey, wine, etc.) and placed over a fire. Certain Gods and Goddesses were associated with specific types of incense, for example, Hathor was strongly associated with myrrh. The Egyptians gathered the resinous “tears” and “sweat” of the gods from the myrrh and frankincense trees to use in much of their incense. Religious secrecy veiled the process for making incense which required a set number of days, symbolic ingredients, and magical spells. The priests believed that as they compounded fragrant resins with herbs, honey, and wine, and raisins, they were mysteriously creating the body of the gods. When burning incense before the temple statues, the priests were offering the Fragrance of the Gods, to the Gods.
Offering Incense to the Gods
A Brief History of the Amber Room
While many Americans associate amber with the casing for dinosaur DNA in 1993's Jurassic Park, the stone has enthralled Europeans, and especially Russians, for centuries because of the golden, jewel-encrusted Amber Room, which was made of several tons of the gemstone. A gift to Peter the Great in 1716 celebrating peace between Russia and Prussia, the room's fate became anything but peaceful: Nazis looted it during World War II, and in the final months of the war, the amber panels, which had been packed away in crates, disappeared. A replica was completed in 2003, but the contents of the original, dubbed "the Eighth Wonder of the World," have remained missing for decades.
Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701. It was originally installed at Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia. Truly an international collaboration, the room was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and constructed by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram. Peter the Great admired the room on a visit, and in 1716 the King of Prussia—then Frederick William I—presented it to the Peter as a gift, cementing a Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.
The Amber Room was shipped to Russia in 18 large boxes and installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg as a part of a European art collection. In 1755, Czarina Elizabeth ordered the room to be moved to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, named Tsarskoye Selo, or "Czar's Village." Italian designer Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli redesigned the room to fit into its new, larger space using additional amber shipped from Berlin.
After other 18th-century renovations, the room covered about 180 square feet and glowed with six tons of amber and other semi-precious stones. The amber panels were backed with gold leaf, and historians estimate that, at the time, the room was worth $142 million in today's dollars. Over time, the Amber Room was used as a private meditation chamber for Czarina Elizabeth, a gathering room for Catherine the Great and a trophy space for amber connoisseur Alexander II.
On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler initiated Operation Barbarossa, which launched three million German soldiers into the Soviet Union. The invasion led to the looting of tens of thousands of art treasures, including the illustrious Amber Room, which the Nazis believed was made by Germans and, most certainly, made for Germans.
As the forces moved into Pushkin, officials and curators of the Catherine Palace attempted to disassemble and hide the Amber Room. When the dry amber began to crumble, the officials instead tried hiding the room behind thin wallpaper. But the ruse didn't fool the German soldiers, who tore down the Amber Room within 36 hours, packed it up in 27 crates and shipped it to Königsberg, Germany (present-day Kaliningrad). The room was reinstalled in Königsberg's castle museum on the Baltic Coast.
The museum's director, Alfred Rohde, was an amber aficionado and studied the room's panel history while it was on display for the next two years. In late 1943, with the end of the war in sight, Rohde was advised to dismantle the Amber Room and crate it away. In August of the following year, allied bombing raids destroyed the city and turned the castle museum into ruins. And with that, the trail of the Amber Room was lost.
Conspiracies, Curses and Construction
It seems hard to believe that crates of several tons of amber could go missing, and many historians have tried to solve the mystery. The most basic theory is that the crates were destroyed by the bombings of 1944. Others believe that the amber is still in Kaliningrad, while some say it was loaded onto a ship and can be found somewhere at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In 1997, a group of German art detectives got a tip that someone was trying to hawk a piece of the Amber Room. They raided the office of the seller's lawyer and found one of the room's mosaic panels in Bremen, but the seller was the son of a deceased soldier and had no idea as to the panel's origin. One of the more extreme theories is that Stalin actually had a second Amber Room and the Germans stole a fake.
Another bizarre aspect of this story is the "Amber Room Curse." Many people connected to the room have met untimely ends. Take Rohde and his wife, for example, who died of typhus while the KGB was investigating the room. Or General Gusev, a Russian intelligence officer who died in a car crash after he talked to a journalist about the Amber Room. Or, most disturbing of all, Amber Room hunter and former German soldier Georg Stein, who in 1987 was murdered in a Bavarian forest.
The history of the new Amber Room, at least, is known for sure. The reconstruction began in 1979 at Tsarskoye Selo and was completed 25 years—and $11 million—later. Dedicated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the new room marked the 300-year anniversary of St. Petersburg in a unifying ceremony that echoed the peaceful sentiment behind the original. The room remains on display to the public at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve outside of St. Petersburg.
Ancient Egypt Accessories had a religious, cultural and political significance. The attire of the Pharaohs and Kings was highly symbolic and exclusive. The regalia included the cobra, which was worn on a crown and sometimes the hood-like head-dress which was a royal symbol in Egypt. Ankh, an object resembling a cross, a sacred sign of life was used in ancient Egypt.
Barring the nobility’s garments, the attire of ancient Egyptian men and women was simple and unadorned. It was the accessories, mainly jewelry, that displayed color and wealth. During the Old Kingdom, a style originated that included simple white pleated clothing. This clothing was often richly enhanced with wide collars made of shells, flowers, beads, and precious stones set in gold. These decorative pieces were merely a sample of the range of jewelry available. It is significant that the crook and flail represented authority over the land and the people in ancient Egypt. Amulets, in the shape of scarab beetles, were worn in life and then buried with the dead for protection.
Ancient Egyptian Fashion
Due to sun and heat, the Egyptians paid considerable attention to their skin as well as their appearance. This was required for good health as much as vanity. Egyptians bathed frequently, almost several times a day. Unguents and oils were applied to the skin by both men and women. A mixture that was made of plant extracts mixed with the fat of a cat, crocodile, and hippo was very popular.
Eye makeup was regularly used to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun and from disease-bearing insects. Red ocher was applied to the lips and cheeks by women. Even women use this makeup today for the same reason.
Ancient Egypt Hair and Wigs
To people of ancient Egypt, hair was a special problem as it was very hot. Thus the hair was hard to keep clean and got easily infested with lice. The problem was solved by shaving their heads and wearing a wig. The wig could be raised on small pads to allow a flow of air between the scalp and the hair. The benefit was that they never turned gray or bald. Women interested in keeping their hair were told they could enhance its natural color. This was done by rubbing in a mixture of oil and the boiled blood of a black cat or bull. Men wore wigs mainly for religious events.
Wigs formed an integral part of the ancient Egypt accessories and were worn by both sexes. They had both a functional and aesthetic purpose. The heat and the habitual preoccupation with cleanliness forced the people to shave their heads. The nobility shaved their heads and wore wigs that were made of real hair. The famous Pharoah Cleopatra is known to have possessed wigs in several hair shades.
On the other hand, the poor people wore wigs made of wool.
Ancient Egypt Jewelry
Ancient Egyptians were the masters in the art of jewelry making. Since before the Dynasties, jewelry was the part of ancient Egypt Accessories in the wardrobe. Different jewelry items included the necklaces, armlets, bracelets, and anklets. These were made of gold, coral, pearl, agate, onyx, and chalcedony. Silver, mainly used for ornamentation was the substance of the gods’ bones.
Flowers, an adornment in religious ceremonies was not only used to enhance the beauty but also for their sacred qualities. Mummies wearing collars of flowers have been found by Archeologists.
Ancient Egyptian Footwear
There is little evidence of footwear being worn by either kings or priests, prior to the 9th century B.C. It is not even evident in depictions of deities. However, by 814 B.C., a simple footwear called sandals appeared. This added footwear to the ancient Egypt accessories. Sandals consisted of two straps and a sole made in a coiled technique using grass and clean palm leaves, papyrus, wood, and goat skin. Footwear not only protected the feet from the hot desert sand but also helped in keeping them cool.
Both men and women wore the same type of sandals during those times. Shoes were kept for indoor wear. During a journey, they would be carried and put on when a party arrived at their destination.
Egyptian Amber Ring - History
Much of the traditional gem lore that has survived was passed down through treatises on precious stones called lapidaries. According to Maria Leach's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, "Belief in the supernatural properties of precious stones goes back beyond recorded history. An early cuneiform tablet gives a list of stones facilitating conception and birth and inducing love and hate. These ideas of the ancients were woven into the astrological cosmos of the Babylonians, but the early Greek lapidaries were essentially medicinal. . . . The early Christian church opposed magic and condemned engraved talismans, but tolerated the use of medicinal amulets, and developed a symbolism of its own based on the gems of Exodus and the Apocalypse. . .
"Because they were part of the science of the [Middle Ages], rather than magic, [lapidaries] were accepted as fact . . . It was not until the later part of the seventeenth century that some of the more incredible virtues of gems were seriously questioned by the authorities. Even then there was no uniformity of opinion, and what one physician discarded as untenable, another vouched for in good faith from his own experience."
To add to the confusion, when you consult early stone lore — i.e., the works of Pliny the Elder or biblical or even medieval mentions of gems — there's great debate over which stones the writers were really referring to. For example, it’s now believed that "sapphire" is the English translation of the biblical "sapur," but what "sapur" actually referred to was not sapphire but lapis lazuli. Though the word emerald derives from the Latin "smaragdus," Pliny's "smaragdus" was not the word for emeralds but a term that encompassed many green stones. Interestingly, though, one possible origin for the word topaz is Topazios, an island in the Red Sea, which in Pliny's time was famous for its peridot mines, and there's wide speculation that straight through the eleventh century topaz, peridot, and citrine were all referred to as topaz. In the fourteenth century the word carbuncle was used to refer to garnets, rubies, and what might have been watermelon tourmaline.
There's another limitation you run up against when working with traditional lore, which is that often it only deals with the most commonly known precious and semiprecious gems. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, topaz, emeralds, pearls, turquoise, carnelian, jade, amethyst, garnet, lapis lazuli, coral, agate, jasper, amber, quartz, and even malachite, are all stones with substantial, multicultural bodies of lore. But it's hard to find beliefs about minerals like labradorite, kyanite, or rhyolite in the older sources for those you have to go to contemporary writers, and then you're dealing with contemporary metaphysics which, though often drawing on ancient systems of belief, is another sort of language altogether.
When I began writing about stones my approach was to research them and then find a way to use whichever bit of information intrigued me, but as writers work on books, their books work on them, and my fiction was working on me. I found that if I wrote about a stone, it helped to be able to hold it. Although this wasn't possible in the case of diamonds and the expensive jewels, I have a number of semiprecious gems and crystals (plus lots of "ordinary" rocks) on hand, and holding them led to working with them, trying to sense what might be inside them as my characters do. This process is still new to me. Quite honestly, sometimes I pick up a stone and don't feel a thing. But other times — whether through the senses, intuition, or imagination — the rocks and crystals have given me inspiration and information, hinted at what they hold inside them.
There came a point when I realized there was no one truth about any given stone, and that I was, in fact, free to write whatever I wanted about them. This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped researching — gem lore, mythology, and mineralogy continue to fascinate me — or that I’m not careful about the qualities I ascribe to the stones in the novels. But I’ve come to believe that stones are as individual and unique as we are, and a great deal of what anyone perceives in a stone — beyond its geologic origins and specific mineralogical properties — is intuitive rather than definitive, and specific to the stone itself.
So for what it's worth and in no particular order, here are some of the stones I touched on in A Rumor of Gems and a preview of the qualities I chose to write about. [For more on the lore of stones, please see my article on Gem Lore.]
Years ago in New York, I was given a moonstone by a friend who told me it was the stone of tenderness. Being a feldspar, moonstone is a fairly soft stone [hardness of 6 on Moh's scale], and it has a gentle translucent sheen. Some legends say it was formed out of the rays of the moon. Others claim you can see the future in a moonstone during a waning moon. Still others say it’s a propitious stone for lovers with the power to make the wearer faithful. My favorite bit of lore about the moonstone, though, comes from India’s astrologers, who say it is the stone used to befriend the moon. In Rumor moonstone is used primarily as a stone that opens the heart, though there’s also a scene where Alasdair uses it to scry the future.
Hematite [iron oxide]
An opaque mineral with a metallic luster, often black or silvery though having a blood-red streak and showing blood-red when cut in thin slices. Hematite has long been connected to Mars, the red god of war it was believed that when warriors rubbed their bodies with hematite, they became invulnerable. While personally I don't think of any stone as "good" or "bad," for purposes of the story I depicted hematites as stones that engendered aggression.
Apple-green and slightly fluorescent a merry stone, a gift in times of joy. Historically, both the Greeks and Romans used it in their seals and signets. Like opal and chrysoberyl, it was said to have the power to confer invisibility on the one who wore it in fact, there's speculation that in older texts the word chrysoprase was used when chrysoberyl was meant. One of the odder beliefs about chrysoprase, which I have not used, is that a thief about to be hanged or beheaded could escape if he held a bit of chrysoprase in his mouth.
Cat’s-eye Chrysoberyl [aka cymophane]
A translucent, yellowish, cloudy stone with a chatoyant sheen and a hardness of 8.5 on Moh's scale. In Rumor, Alasdair gives the boy Michael a stone to keep with him, and I needed a mineral that was physically quite hard, as in the scene it's repeatedly thrown against cinderblock walls. Because it was a gift from Alasdair, it also had to be a protective stone, so I combined and extrapolated from a number of beliefs: In Arabic tradition, it’s believed that the chrysoberyl could make the wearer invisible in battle. According to Melody, the stone has a stabilizing influence, opening one to a sense of self worth and allowing forgiveness.
Tourmaline is a complex gemstone found in a tremendous range of colors that includes green, blue, yellow, pink, red, black and the watermelon variety, which is both pink and green. Its pyroelectric quality — if rubbed or heated, it will develop a static charge that attracts lightweight particles to its surface — was probably the source of its name. According to Barbara Walker's The Book of Sacred Stones, the Sinhalese word turamali, meant both "colored stone" and "attractor of ashes." Like quartz, it also has a piezoelectric effect, and becomes electrically charged when bent or stressed in certain directions. Walker's book states that tourmaline was recognized as a gem in Europe in 1703 when Dutch traders brought it back from the East, but Christopher Cavey's Gems and Jewels: Fact and Fable states that tourmalines have "only been identified as a separate gem species for the last two hundred years. The stones originally found in Brazil in the sixteenth century were mistaken for emerald, and it was not until the eighteenth century that this error was corrected."
Black Tourmaline [aka schorl]
The story needed a stone that would protect against dark magic. At the time I had a beautiful, glossy chunk of schorl on my desk, and as I began to write the confrontation with the shape-shifter Sangeet, black tourmaline was what came to mind. Later, I looked it up in contemporary metaphysical guides (both Melody's Love Is in the Earth and Judy Hall's The Crystal Bible), and found that indeed, it has been used to protect against black magic and negative energy.
Tourmaline has been used by both African and Australian shamans, and according to Melody, "in rituals performed in ancient eastern Indian culture, the tourmaline was used to provide direction toward that which was 'good' it was also recognized as a 'teller' stone, providing insight during times of struggle and 'telling' who and/or what is causing trouble." I couldn't resist the idea of tourmaline being a "teller stone" and so had Alasdair give one to Lucinda.
Mineralogical kin to turquoise often apple-green, though what materializes for Alasdair is a deep-green bead, based on a necklace I once saw. According to Melody, faustite "allows for deeper communication with plant and animal life." I took this one step further, using the faustite in the novel to facilitate a kind of human-to-animal telepathy.
Another feldspar which, though translucent, often has a multicolored sheen. When I pictured the labradorite bridge in Arcato, I was picturing the stones in a particular grey-blue labradorite necklace I'd seen, but I also have a gorgeous chunk in my office (see bottom photo HERE) that has a range of satiny blues and golds in it. As for the power I ascribed to labradorite in the novel, I'm not quite sure where I got that one.
Like jasper, agate, chrysoprase, and carnelian, chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline quartz, meaning that its crystalline structure is so fine that you can't actually see distinct particles under a microscope — or put another way, though it's a quartz, it never appears as a crystal. Historically, chalcedony was sacred to Diana, and connected to victory in arguments and battles, which is one reason it was used so frequently in cameos depicting military leaders. According to Melody, it’s also been used "to provide a pathway for receiving thought transmission." I drew on and combined these beliefs, using chalcedony twice in Rumors, where it not only carries the victory gene, as it were, but opens pathways where there's resistance.
A relatively soft stone [5.5 – 6.5 on Moh's scale] According to Bruce G. Knuth, the word opal was originally derived from the Sanksrit upala, which means precious stone. The ancient Romans called it cupid paederos, "child beautiful as love," regarding it as a "symbol of hope and purity." In Arab lore "opals are the remnants of lightning strikes to the ground, and the flashes in the stone are captured lightning." It wasn't until the nineteenth century that the opal became known as a gem of ill omen and was connected with assorted misfortunes of European royalty.
In Rumors, I drew primarily on the opal's reputation as a thief's stone, with the power to simultaneously strengthen one's sight and make the wearer invisible. [As far as I can tell, this dates back to the Greek story of Gyges (related in Plato's Republic) who found a ring that made him invisible and thus allowed him to steal both queen and crown.] Since completing the novel, I wound up with a small black opal of my own and keep finding myself transfixed by the thing. I'm not yet sure of how, but opals will definitely play a larger role in the sequel.
The only gemstone composed of one pure element, carbon, whose molecules are bonded with perfect symmetry in every direction. This perfect atomic structure is what makes it the hardest natural substance on the planet [a 10 on Moh's scale], as well as an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. It also, as Geshe Michael Roach writes in The Diamond Cutter, "has the highest degree of refraction of any naturally occurring substance in the universe." The diamond's physical properties of clarity and hardness have given rise to it being a symbol of power, strength, innocence and incorruptibility, longevity, constancy, and good fortune. Of course, there are also the famously cursed diamonds, like the Hope, as well as an old Persian belief that the diamond was a source of sin and sorrow, which is not so unreasonable, considering how much blood has been shed in the mining, selling, and acquiring of the stone.
When I was writing Rumor I became intrigued by a branch of diamond lore that claims the gem drives away madness and protects against ghosts, chimeras, enchantments and sorcery. And I was drawn to a photograph of the Javeri diamond pictured in Christopher Cavey's book. [Please see Sources and the Annotated Bibliography.] That was the stone I imagined when Lucinda was given the diamond in Kama's garden ….
A yellow quartz, traditionally known as a merchant's stone. One acquaintance, who does a lot of work with stones, recommended keeping citrine with your loose change, as a way of engendering savings.
The bright green variety of beryl. Emeralds are the gem of spring and rebirth, a protection at sea, an antidote to certain poisons. Of course, they've also been connected with jealousy, and it's said that some emeralds can be used to call on the dark angels and spirits. Bruce G. Knuth, citing Forbes' Oriental Memoirs, relates an Indian tale about emeralds originating from fireflies in moonlight. That captured my imagination, and emeralds from fireflies found their way into Rumor.
Technically not a stone at all but fossilized resin, however only the pearl predates its use as a gem. Amber beads have been found in prehistoric sites, and amber is believed to have been traded before 2000 B.C. According to Maria Leach, "In Greek legend, amber was a concretion of tears shed at the death of Meleager by his sisters. In Scandanavian mythology, it was the tears shed by Freya when Odin wandered out into the world. To the Chinese it was the soul of the tiger transformed into the mineral after death." Amber only appears briefly in Rumor, where I drew on the belief that a goblet made of amber will not only detect but burn away any poison it contains.
As Bruce G. Knuth explains, garnet "is not a single mineral but a group of minerals that share a nearly identical atomic structure. The stones in the group are chemically different complex silicates each chemical variation results in a distinctly different mineral. They vary in hardness, color, and transparency." The garnet group includes — but is not limited to — almandine (red with violet tint), green andradite and uvarovite, pyrope (red with brown tint), and hessonite (a cinnamon to yellow grossular garnet).
Like most red and pink stones, garnets have been connected with the heart, passion, and blood. A wide-ranging array of powers was ascribed to garnet. It was one of many stones thought to be an antidote to poison if taken internally or worn as a poultice. According to Knuth, "If worn, it would dissipate sadness, control incontinence, avert evil thoughts and dreams, exhilarate the soul, and foretell misfortunes." Believed to contain a flare of lightning inside it, garnet was also believed to keep one safe from lightning strikes, which is the bit that I fastened onto and used in Rumors.
Of all the minerals, only pyrite, diamonds, and garnets manifest in rhombic dodecahedrons, which are part of the cubic system, which of all the crystal systems has the highest order of symmetry. [P.G. Read's Dictionary of Gemmology explains that "Crystals can be grouped into seven basic crystal systems . . . defined in terms of imaginary lines of reference called crystal axes and by their elements of symmetry."] When I started working on Rumors one of my sisters gave me a small basket of stones, and in it was a very small unpolished garnet, a perfect dodecahedron crystal. I've been fascinated by the tiny stone's natural perfect faceting and by its color — so dark a red it's nearly opaque and yet if you hold it up to the light, something flickers in its depths.
A felsite, in the feldspar family, rhyolite contains both feldspar and quartz but is softer than quartz, easier to carve, originally part of a volcanic flow. I first became intrigued by rhyolite when I visited Chiricahua National Monument, which is filled with rhyolite spires and columns. The tourist literature they give you refers to it as either "forests of stones" or "a wonderland of rocks." To me it looked more like a community of beings. However you choose to describe it, it's a phenomenally beautiful and moving terrain, where the rocks — the result of volcanic eruptions and millennia of erosion — seem sculpted.
Quite a while after visiting the Chiricahaus, I bought a little chunk of rhyolite in a local rock shop, this one looking as if it had swirls of chocolate moving through it. I spent a long time looking at that rock before realizing that rhyolite was what Vita's house in the Source Place was made of. I also, irrationally, kept thinking, "This stone has movement in it." And from that — and Melody's description of it as "a stone of resolution"— came the idea that rhyolite contained movement in its essence and could be a tonic for moving through difficulties a stone that won’t allow you to stay in place where you’re stuck, a stone that urges one toward change and resolution and offers its own energy and strength to aid that.
A transparent crystal with strong dichroism, revealing different colors — often brownish-red and green — when viewed from different directions. According to Melody, andalusite can be used to enhance memory, reflecting different facets of what we’ve known, which is how Vita uses it in the Source Place.
Topaz, which has a Moh's hardness of 8, exists in a variety of colors, including many shades of yellow and gold, a silvery blue, and pink. The early lapidaries cite topaz as a stone capable of cooling boiling water, curing eye disease and gall, dispelling night terrors, lessening anger and lechery, and being able to cure cowardice. Having a similar protective intent but rather different m.o. from amber, it was said to become invisible in the presence of poison. It was also said to be a protection against untimely death. According to Bruce G. Knuth, as an amulet topaz was used to "drive away sadness, strengthen the intellect, and grant courage. All these powers were said to increase and decrease with the phases of the moon and be even more powerful if used in moonlight. . . . The topaz is also considered precious by African bushmen it is used in ceremonies for healing and contacting spirits."
Among the many powers attributed to topaz was the stone's ability to create its own light. St. Hildegarde claimed that she read prayers in a darkened chapel by the light emanating from a topaz. And in a 1907 compendium of mineral lore, The Occult and Curative Powers of Precious Stones, William T. Fernie, M.D. wrote: "[The topaz] possesses a gift of inner radiance which can dispel darkness . . . Formerly, it was eagerly looked for by mariners, when they had no daylight, or moon, to direct their course." I was charmed by this idea of topaz's inner radiance, and so Vita wears both golden and light blue topaz, which are indeed radiant.
Quartz [aka rock crystal]
Quartz, whose chemical composition is silicon dioxide [Moh's hardness of 7], is one of the most abundant minerals on the planet. As Bruce G. Knuth writes: "[It is] found in nearly every exposed rock on the earth's surface. It is a compound of the two most common elements in the earth's crust, silica and oxygen." The ancients, however, believed it was formed of petrified ice, and Australian and Oceanian shamans considered it "a stone of light" broken off from the celestial throne. There are, of course, many varieties of quartz including amethyst, citrine, rose and smoky quartz.
Because of its abundance and beauty, nearly every ancient culture revered quartz, and it has been used by many peoples in shamanic and religious ceremonies. Knuth states that pieces of quartz were found in the 8,000-year-old Egyptian Temple of Hathor, and quotes the Greek priest Onomacritis, founder of the Hellenic mysteries, as giving the following advice in the fifth century B.C. "Who so goes into the temple with this in his hand may be quite sure of having his prayer granted, as the gods cannot withstand its power." It has been used to contain spirits, summon both fire and rain, divine the future and as a protection from danger, a medium for clairvoyance, and a conduit to other realms.
In Rumors, I drew on a number of the beliefs about quartz, including a beautiful Vedic belief that says, "if you offer a libation to the dead while wearing white quartz, then you give the dead the gift of happiness.” I also incorporated a shamanic belief, found in Mircea Eliade's Shamanism, about quartz containing an animal spirit. Currently, I have a beautiful smoky quartz crystal on my desk (see detail photo at the top of this page) which I am sure will find its way into the second book.
Though the ancient Egyptians considered the amethyst a stone of the intellect and wisdom, the Greek word for it amethustos, which means "not drunken" has long associated the mineral with the belief that wearing it is a protection against intoxication. It's also been considered a calming influence, a good stone for clarity, and a protection from sorcerers and thieves.
In E. A. Wallis Budge's Amulets and Talismans, I found the mention of a hexagonal amethyst crystal, engraved with the image of bear, which since Renaissance times was considered a powerful protection. And so I absolutely had to give one to Alasdair and find out exactly what this ancient amulet might do.
Vita has large smooth cabochon of red carnelian, a symbol inscribed on its surface. A red stone, carnelian was linked to blood and so to energy and power. Most of the lore I drew on for the carnelian came out of ancient Egypt where it was believed that carnelian was connect to Seth, the volatile god of desert and storms who murdered his brother Osiris. Embodying opposites, carnelian can still the qualities Seth is known for: envy, hatred and rage. It's also been said to deflect psychic attacks.
The Egyptians also worked a variety of metals to produce jewellery. Metal can be hammered into shape or melted and poured into moulds to create jewellery. It can also be extruded into wire for stringing beads or other pieces. Some of the earliest metal worked was gold. Gold is relatively soft and easy to work.
- The Egyptians also worked a variety of metals to produce jewellery.
- It can also be extruded into wire for stringing beads or other pieces.
Silver was also used for jewellery production, but was relatively rare compared with gold. Gold and silver were combined to form electrum, another popular metal in Egyptian jewellery. Both gold and silver were used for jewellery as early as 3500 B.C.
Copper and bronze were also used to produce some forms of jewellery beginning as early as 4000 B.C. In later periods of Egyptian history, bronze was a very popular material for producing small statues of deities to be worn as amulets or kept as figurines.
Egyptian Amber Ring - History
OLDER THAN DIRT.
Ancient Coins & Artifacts:
Baltic Amber, with gnat (Nematocera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 18 mm (3/4").
Comes with high-res photo! #NAT2021: $125 SOLD
Burmese amber! With Orthoptera, Gryllidae (Cricket) inclusion!
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 14 mm (9/16”).
Found at Myanmar, Burma. Rare! #NAT2043: $150 SOLD
Burmese amber! With beetle (Coleoptera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 16 mm (5/8").
Found at Myanmar, Burma. #NAT2025: $125
Burmese amber! With Nematocera (Midge) inclusion.
Trapped in a prehistoric air bubble! Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 15 mm (5/8”). Found at Myanmar, Burma. #NAT2039: $99 SOLD
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Dominican amber! With Araneae: Araneida (Spider) inclusion!
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Quite large at 30mm (1 3/16”). Rare! #NAT2046: $175 SOLD
Dominican amber! With TWO Araneae: Araneida (Spiders) inclusion! Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Very large at 38mm (1 1/2”). Rare to have two! #NAT2045: $199 SOLD
Burmese amber! With Trichoptera (Caddisfly) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Tiny! Dia: 10 mm (3/8”).
Found at Myanmar, Burma. #NAT2038: $99 SOLD
Baltic amber! With Araneae: Araneida (Spider) inclusion!
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 17mm (5/8”). Rare!
Found in the Baltic Sea area. #NAT2062: $175 SOLD
Baltic Amber with beetle inclusion. "Plant hopper" (Hemiptera).
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old.
Dia: 12 mm (15/32"). #NAT2004: $125 SOLD
Baltic Amber, with Long-legged Fly (Diptera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old.
Dia: 16 mm (5/8"). #NAT2006: $125 SOLD
Burmese amber! With rare mass of fibers or hairs.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 14 mm (9/16").
Found at Myanmar, Burma. Extremely rare! #NAT2023: $175 SOLD
Burmese amber! With gnat (Nematocera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 15 mm (5/8”).
Found at Myanmar, Burma. #NAT2040: $125 SOLD
Baltic Amber, with gnat (Nematocera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 13 mm (1/2").
Beautifully preserved! #NAT2028: $125 SOLD
Baltic Amber, with midge (Nematocera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 17 mm (11/16").
Comes with high-res photo! #NAT2022: $99 SOLD
Burmese amber! With gnat (Nematocera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 27 mm (1 inch).
Found at Myanmar, Burma. #NAT2027: $125 SOLD
Burmese amber! With Planthopper (Hemiptera) inclusion.
Eocene Epoch, 44 million years old. Dia: 15 mm (9/16”).
Found at Myanmar, Burma. Nice! #NAT2037: $125 SOLD
What the Tattoos Tell Us
The find suggests, for the first time, that both men and women in ancient Egyptian societies had tattoos.
Previously, archaeologists assumed that only women living during ancient Egypt's predynastic period, from 4000 B.C. to 3100 B.C., had tattoos. This theory was based on figurines that depicted women with tattoos.
These tattoos represent the first time archaeologists have found examples of tattoos on people that mirror motifs used in art.
Both the images on the male and female seem to suggest a symbolic relevance, but archaeologists aren't quite of their exact meaning.
"The sheep is quite commonly used in the predynastic [Egyptian period] and its significance is not well understood, whereas the bull is specifically to do with male virility and status," says study author and British Museum curator Daniel Antoine.