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  • An Introduction to Gems
  • Laurence Coste
  • GemsStonesThe Meaning of Stones and Gems

An Introduction to Gems

Crystals have been venerated and used for spiritual and healing rituals since ancient times.  Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones, and those beliefs are often tied to that culture's history, geography, and spiritual practices. In many cultures it was believed they were descended from the heavens and contained a life force with unique energetic properties. 

The word crystal comes from the Greek word "krustallos", meaning ice. The Ancient Greeks believed clear crystals were eternal ice from the heavens, and many crystals appear in Greek mythology as we'll see further on. 

Whilst some cultures used them for luck, like the Romans, who made crystal amulets or protective talismans used to attract good health, fortune, prosperity, or good outcomes during battle; others, like the Chinese, used them for medicinal purposes. Perhaps the most investigated use of crystals was done in ancient India where crystals and gemstones were used in Ayurvedic medicine to counteract the effects of astrology and karma. One of the oldest Hindu scripts documents the healing crystals with their specific healing properties.

Both the Ancient Egyptians and the Japanese used crystals frequently to connect with death and the afterlife. Whilst the Ancient Egyptians used them extensively when burying the dead in order to guide their souls to the afterlife, the Japanese used crystals and gemstones to connect to psychic energies and used crystal balls to foretell events using  crystal quartz spheres that were considered representative of the heart of a dragon and signified their power and wisdom.

There is no one definitive interpretation for every stone, they're individual and unique and a great deal of what has been written about them is based on intuition.

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."

Every Wednesday we'll be sending out a newsletter talking about the properties and history behind different stones. If you'd like to stay tuned, you can subscribe to our weekly stone newsletter below! 

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  • Laurence Coste
  • GemsStonesThe Meaning of Stones and Gems

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