Crystals, minerals and metals have played various roles in the myths and legends of human cultures throughout history. They are fascinating examples of the attempts of the men and women of ancient times to explain their world without the benefit of science and with each culture’s biases, superstitions and interests impressed upon them and therefore provide us with an especially vivid picture of the psychology of ancient man. What gemstone could make heroes stronger? Legends of Jewels, Quartz Mythology, Myths about crystals and myths about jewelry; Some of those ancient myths and legends have come down intact through the centuries. Others have evolved and mutated as a result of the input of other cultures as they came into contact with one another.
The most popular mythology surrounding amethyst is from ancient Greece. The word “amethyst” is of Greek origin and is translated as- “amethystus” meaning not drunken, or intoxicated (“-methystos” from “methyein” or intoxicated, “methy” = wine). As a symbol of sincerity and stability, the unique purple shades of amethyst have been declared the “Rose de France” and has been set, even today, in Victorian jewelry (rings, bracelets, necklaces, hair accessories etc.). The mythology of this stone, unsurprisingly, spreads through modern mythology and even ancient and recent legend.
According to some legends, aquamarine is the treasure of mermaids, with the power to keep sailors safe. Supposedly its’ powers are particularly strong when immersed in water. While on land, it is said to have a soothing influence on married couples. The ancient Romans believed that the Aquamarine was sacred to Neptune, the god of the sea, having fallen from the jewel boxes of sirens and washed onto shore. Early sailors wore aquamarine talismans, engraved with the likeness of Neptune, as protection against dangers at sea.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed they were tears of the Gods and splinters from falling stars. Cupids’ arrows were supposed to be tipped with diamonds, having thus a magic that nothing else can equal. Plato wrote about diamonds as living beings, embodying celestial spirits. The Hindus believed that they were created when bolts of lightning struck rocks. They even placed some in the eyes of some of their statues. Jewish high priests turned to diamonds to decide the innocence or guilt of the accused: a stone held before a guilty person was supposed to dull and darken, while when held before an innocent one to glow with increased brilliance. The Romans wore diamonds because these were thought to possess broad magical powers over life’s troubles, being able in particular to give to the wearer strength, invincibility, bravery, and courage during battle. Kings, in old days, led the battles on the battlefields wearing heavy leather breastplates studded with diamonds and other precious stones because it was believed that diamonds possessed God given magical qualities and powers far beyond the understanding of common man. Thus, warriors stayed clear of Kings and those who were fortunate enough to have the magical diamonds in their breastplates.
The Romans believed that emeralds with a pale hue were immature and would grow to a deeper, richer colour with age. The ancient Roman scholar Pliny was so moved by the emerald’s lush colour he wrote, “nothing is more intense than the green of emerald and sight is refreshed and restored by gazing upon this stone” . Following his advice, Roman emperor Nero wore emerald sunglasses to watch the gladiators. Emerald is said to give a supernatural ability to foretell future events. A surprising variety of virtues have been ascribed to emerald. Among these, emerald was thought to improve its owner’s memory and eloquence, and was also said to quicken intelligence. In a particular instance of emerald’s use, as a measure against ills, women wearing the stone were believed to be immune from epilepsy.
The pomegranate (and garnet) is associated with eternity in many Greek Myths. Many have associated the gift of the pomegranate seeds with the gift of fine garnet gems. It’s meaning has given symbolism to garnet as a gift of love’s attraction, a gift of quick return or as a gift of estranged love. This myth gave partial rise to the belief that garnet is a stone for loved ones who travel and a crystal that can heal the broken bonds between lovers.
In ancient times, opal had been regarded as the luckiest and most magical of all the gems because of its’ ability to showcase a multitude of colors. The Greeks of old believed the stone to give it’s bearer the powers of foresight and prophecy. The Arabs of Mohammed’s time were quite enamored of the gem, and were convinced they were carried to earth on bolts of lightning.
One myth (probably of Greek origin) tells of a storm god throwing a bolt of lightning at the rainbow that ended his storm. The subsequent explosion of colors fell to the earth, embedding themselves in the rocks, creating the opal.
Long known as the “Queen of Gems”, pearls possess a history and allure far beyond what today’s wearer may recognize. In China, pearls were thought to be raindrops swallowed by oysters. The Chinese associated dragons and pearls together, since they believed dragons fighting in the clouds caused pearls to drop from the sky in the form of rain. During the Dark Ages, gallant knights often wore pearls onto the battlefield to protect them from harm. Long been a favorite for brides and newlyweds. The ancient Greeks believed that wearing pearls would promote harmony in a marriage and prevent newlyweds from shedding tears. Also, a very popular gem to Ancient Egyptians. Reportedly, Cleopatra dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win a wager with Marc Anthony that she could consume the wealth of an entire country in just one meal.
Early Egyptian priests drank a stimulating beverage called Soma from cups made of Peridot, believing this practice to draw them closer to Isis, the goddess of nature. It was believed that the Peridot glowed with light even as darkness fell, which is why miners were said to have scouted for these gems during the night, marking their location, and returning in the light of day to retrieve them. The ancients believed that it had the power to dissolve enchantments and to drive evil spirits away. Peridot was even able to strengthen the power of any medicine drunk from goblets carved from the gemstone. When used as protection against the wiles of evil spirits, peridot was pierced and then strung on the hair of a donkey, and attached to the left arm. In powder, peridot was used as a remedy for asthma. When held under the tongue, it was believed to lessen the thirst in fever.
If worn on the left hand, ancient lore has it that the Ruby will bring good fortune to its wearer, too! Ruby has been the world’s most valued gemstone for thousands of years. Ruby was said to be the most precious of the twelve stones God created when he created all things, and this “lord of gems” was placed on Aaron’s neck by God’s command. In the Bible, Job says that wisdom is more precious than rubies. Rubies were thought to represent heat and power. Ancient tribes used the gem as bullets for blowguns, and it was said that a pot of water would boil instantly if a Ruby was tossed into it. Ground to powder and placed on the tongue, this crystal was used as a cure for indigestion. Among the multitude of legends and strange beliefs of ancient times, it was thought that the wearer of a ruby was blessed with health, wealth, wisdom and outstanding success in`heart affairs ‘. Furthermore, the wearer acquired the ability to live in peace with his enemies. In some places ruby was even thought to confer invulnerability.
Ancient civilizations believed that the world was set upon an enormous sapphire, which painted the sky blue with its reflection. In ancient times, Sapphires were thought to be protective against envy, and even against poisoning. A common belief was that a venomous snake placed in a Sapphire vessel would rapidly die! Ground to a powder, the blue stone was believed to cure colic, rheumatism and mental illness, and to strengthen eyesight. Sapphire has long symbolized truth, sincerity, and faithfulness. The ancients regarded star sapphires as a very powerful talisman, a guiding star for travelers and seekers of all kinds. The Tradition holds that Moses was given the ten commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred gemstone. Because sapphires represent divine favor, they were the gemstone of choice for kings and high priests. The British Crown Jewels are full of large blue sapphires, and even more recently Prince Charles chose a sapphire engagement ring for Lady Diana.
The Egyptians believed that topaz was colored with the golden glow of the sun god Ra. The ancient Greeks believed that it had the power to increase one’s strength and make its wearer invisible in cases of emergency. The Romans associated topaz with Jupiter, who is also the god of the sun. In the 19th century, pink topaz was discovered in Russia. The gemstone was so coveted that only the Czar, his family, and those he gave it to were allowed ownership. When worn as an amulet, topaz was said to drive away sadness and strengthen the intellect. Mounted in gold and hung around the neck, it was believed to dispel bad charms. Reduced to powder and put in wine, topaz was a cure for insomnia, asthma, burns and hemorrhage. Topaz was also said to change its color in the presence of poisoned food or drink. All these mystical powers were believed to increase and decrease with the phases of the moon. One of the most famous topaz gems is a giant specimen set in the Portuguese Crown.
Turquoise was considered by ancients to be a sacred stone, protective against all manners of evil and ill health. The blue color of turquoise was thought to have powerful metaphysical properties by many ancient cultures. In ancient Mexico, turquoise was reserved for the gods and could not be worn by mere mortals. In Asia, turquoise was considered to be an effective protection against the evil eye. In Tibet even today, turquoise is by far the most popular of all materials used for personal adornment, and it still plays an important part in religious ceremonies. In the United States South West, the Apache believed that turquoise helped warriors and hunters to aim accurately. The Zuni believed that it protected them from demons. Another belief was that turquoise had the power to protect the wearer from injury from falling, especially falling from horse-back, and that it made the horse more sure footed.