DETAIL: A very bold, elegant, ornate and intricate sterling silver ring of Victorian origin, produced in the Crimean Region. It was most likely produced in the eighteenth century (the 1700's); provenance is Eastern Europe (Macedonia). The ring bears a very elaborate pattern all the way around the entire circumference of the band, and you can see the intricate pattern is entirely intact. Clearly the ring has seen some wear and the intricate design present on the bands has been worn down a little bit, but the extent of the wear is very minimal.
However clearly the ring is not “like new”, to the contrary it is obvious that the ring was worn with some frequency during someone’s life several centuries ago. However keep in mind that an artisan produced the ring and it was sold to a customer or patron with the idea that the ring would be worn and enjoyed. And that’s exactly what happened. Despite the (modestly light) wear and the age of this ring, it could be worn and enjoyed on a daily basis. It is in very good condition, sturdily constructed, and will bring a new owner decades of wearing pleasure.
The ring possesses a very elaborate bezel, as you can see. The focal point of the bezel is of course the seven gemstones. There are four lapis lazuli gemstones, probably from Afghanistan. Two turquoise gemstones certainly from Iran. And lastly what appears to be red jasper, likely Nubian in origin. The ring is quite substantial, the bezel also is flanked by two intricate leaves. Overall the design of the ring and the detailed metal work evidenced in the bands is very elaborate! The gemstones are all very significant in history. Evidence suggests that lapis lazuli has been utilized as a gemstone for at least 10,000 years, making it along with pearls, turquoise, carnelian, and amber amongst the “oldest” gemstones utilized by ancient cultures for decorative purposes.
The ancient city of Ur had a thriving trade in lapis lazuli as early as the fourth millennium B.C. The ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Roman cultures also highly favored lapis lazuli. Renaissance artists used ground lapis as pigment for the fabulous blue in the era’s masterpieces of art. Still very popular in Eastern Europe, the columns of St. Isaac's Cathedral are lined with lapis, and the Pushkin Palace (both in St. Petersburg) has lapis lazuli paneling! This variety of turquoise was first obtained from the Sinai Peninsula before the 4th millennium B.C. in one of the world's first important hard-rock mining operations. It was transported to Europe through Turkey, probably accounting for its name, which is French for "Turkish." The sky-blue variety of turquoise, commonly referred to as robin's egg, is and historically has been the most desired variety. This variety is mined exclusively in Neyshabur, Iran.
The fabled land of ancient Nubia was the source of the red jasper held so precious by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Carved into jewelry and religious amulets, red jasper was obtained from the Nubian Upper Nile, typically in the form of annual tributes to the Pharaoh. As well ancient Egypt received annual tribute of their treasured red jasper from “the land of Punt”. But there exact whereabouts of Punt (and the pygmy black tribesmen of legend) remains a mystery today. A religiously significant amulet known as an “Isis Tit” was carved from red jasper and placed at the throat of the mummified remains of Egyptian Pharaohs and Royalty.
The ring itself is sterling silver. This style of ring was popular throughout much of Eastern Byzantine Europe for centuries, so it is difficult to place a precise date on the artifact. The term “sterling silver” was in use by the twelfth century. However the stamp “925” was not commonly used until the late fifteen or early sixteenth century. However it is likely to have been produced later than that, probably the late eighteenth century. In any event, this elaborate piece of Victorian jewelry is in an excellent state of preservation, with no cracks or other damage to impair its integrity. The ring could be worn and enjoyed without endangering the artifact for many decades to come. Its integrity is entirely unimpaired, and despite the delicate appearance, it is durable and well-constructed.
HISTORY OF MACEDONIA: Macedon (or Macedonia) is known to have been inhabited since the Neolithic, early inhabitants including Thracians, Pannonians, and Ilyrians. It is believed by anthropologists that the original population was of Indo-European Dorian stock. The Dorians were responsible for the invasion of Myceanean Greece to the south about 1150 A.D., precipitating the “Greek Dark Ages”. Mycenea was sacked, and the archaeological record shows that many other principle cities in Greece and Crete were reduced to villages. It is known that the Greeks considered the Doric Macedonians “barbarians”, and that the Macedonians spoke a distinct language or dialect, and were considered by the Greeks as “non-Greek” speakers.
Up until the time of Alexander the Great Macedonians were not allowed to participate in Olympic Games. However with the Hellenization of the Greek Peninsula, eventually Macedon was considered Hellenic. The area of ancient Macedon was in the north part of the Greek Peninsula, and was bordered by ancient Thrace. Ancient Macedon is now split between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia (formerly part of Yugosalvia). Due to the barbarian incursions and depopulation of the region after the fall of the Roman Empire, the surviving Greek population of Macedon fled southwards into what is now the Macedonian region of Greece; while eventually the northernmost regions (present day Republic of Macedonia) became repopulated with Slavic peoples, and even later by Armenians.
The ancient populations coalesced into the Kingdom of Macedona about 800 B.C. Ancient Macedon fell to the Persian Armies of Darius the Great in the late sixth century B.C. It became more Hellenic in character after King Alexander I of Macedon began promoting the Attic (Greek) dialect and culture in the first half of the fifth century B.C. The Hellenic character of Macedon grew over the next century. Under the rule of Philip II, Macedon extended its power over the rest of northern Greece, including Thrace, Pannonia, and Illyria. Philip's son Alexander the Great conquered not only the remainder of Greece, but also the Persian Empire, Egypt, and Northern India. After his death Alexander’s generals divided the empire between them, founding their own states and dynasties.
Macedon was part of the empire created by Antigonus, remaining independent until foolishly engaging the Romans in three successive wars in the late third and early second centuries B.C. The Romans initially divided Macedonia into four republics, client kingdoms of Rome, before finally annexing Macedon as the first Roman Province in 146 B.C. With the division of the Roman Empire, Macedon eventually became part of the surviving Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire. However the population of the entire region was severely depleted by destructive successive invasions of Goths, Avars, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals. In the fifth and sixth centuries a number of Slavic tribes repopulated the desolated northern regions (what is today the Republic of Macedonia).
Most of inland (Slavic) Macedonia was incorporated into Bulgaria in the ninth century, while the ethnic Greek Aegean coastal regions remained part of the Byzantine Empire. However the period following (one century plus) was punctuated by almost incessant warfare between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, until finally in 1018 A.D. Bulgaria fell and the whole of Macedonia was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire as the province of Bulgaria. Macedonia was ultimately to fall to the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the first half of the fifteenth century. For the next five centuries Macedonia remained part of the Ottoman Empire.
The initial period of Ottoman rule saw the complete desolation of the plains and river valleys of Macedonia. The Christian population there was slaughtered, escaped to the mountains or was forcefully converted to Islam. Towns destroyed during the conquest were repopulated with Turkish Muslim settlers. At the conclusion of World War I and the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire, Macedonia was incorporated with the rest of Serbia into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). After the fall of the Soviet Empire late in the twentieth century, Slavic Macedonia became the Republic of Macedonia. Greek Macedonia remains of course, part of Greece.
HISTORY OF SILVER: After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewelry and the most malleable. The oldest silver artifacts found by archaeologists date from ancient Sumeria about 4,000 B.C. At many points in the ancient world, it was actually more costly than gold, particularly in ancient Egypt. Silver is found in native form (i.e., in nuggets), as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. Much of the silver originally found in the ancient world was actually a natural alloy of gold and silver (in nugget form) known as “electrum”. The first large-scale silver mines were in Anatolia (ancient Turkey) and Armenia, where as early as 4,000 B.C. silver was extracted from lead ores by means of a complicated process known as “smelting”. Even then the process was not perfect, as ancient silver does contain trace elements, typically lead, gold, bismuth and other metals, and as much as a third of the silver was left behind in the slag. However measuring the concentrations of the “impurities” in ancient silver can help the forensic jewelry historian in determining the authenticity of classical items.
From Turkey and Armenia silver refining technology spread to the rest of Asia Minor and Europe. By about 2,500 B.C. the Babylonians were one of the major refiners of silver. Silver “treasures” recovered by archaeologists from the second and third millenniums demonstrate the high value the ancient Mediterranean and Near East placed upon silver. Some of the richest burials in history uncovered by archaeologists have been from this time frame, that of Queen Puabi of Ur, Sumeria (26th century B.C.); Tuankhamun (14th century B.C.), and the rich Trojan (25th century B.C.) and Mycenaean (18th century B.C.) treasures uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of their gods was composed of gold, and their bones were thought to be of silver. When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold (silver was rarer and more valuable than gold in many Mesoamerican cultures as well). In surviving inventories of valuables, items of silver were listed above those of gold during the Old Kingdom. Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty (about 2,500 B.C.) queen Hetephere I, in marked contrast to the extravagance of her heavy gold jewelry. A silver treasure excavated by archaeologists and attributable to the reign of Amenemhat II who ruled during the 12th Dynasty (about 1900 B.C.), contained fine silver items which were actually produced in Crete, by the ancient Minoans. When the price of silver finally did fall due to more readily available supplies, for at least another thousand years (through at least the 19th dynasty, about 1,200 B.C.) the price of silver seems to have been fixed at half that of gold. Several royal mummies attributable to about 1,000 B.C. were even entombed in solid silver coffins.
Around 1,000 B.C. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Laurium mines, and would supply much of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years. This ancient source was eventually supplemented around 800 B.C. (and then eventually supplanted) by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the Phoenicians and their colony (and ultimate successors) the Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family). With the defeat of Carthage by Rome, the Romans gained control of these vast deposits, and mined massive amounts of silver from Spain, stripping entire forests regions for timber to fuel smelting operations. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.
Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewelry before the classical age. Despite its infrequent use as jewelry however, silver was widely used as coinage due to its softness, brilliant color, and resistance to oxidation. Silver alloyed with gold in the form of “electrum” was coined to produce money around 700 B.C. by the Lydians of present-day Turkey. Having access to silver deposits and being able to mine them played a big role in the classical world. Actual silver coins were first produced in Lydia about 610 B.C., and subsequently in Athens in about 580 B.C. Many historians have argued that it was the possession and exploitation of the Laurium mines by the Athenians that allowed them to become the most powerful city state in Greece. The Athenians were well aware of the significance of the mining operations to the prosperity of their city, as every citizen had shares in the mines. Enough silver was mined and refined at Laurium to finance the expansion of Athens as a trading and naval power. One estimate is that Laurium produced 160 million ounces of silver, worth six billion dollars today (when silver is by comparison relatively cheap and abundant). As the production of silver from the Laurium mines ultimately diminished, Greek silver production shifted to mines in Macedonia.
Silver coinage played a significant role in the ancient world. Macedonia’s coinage during the reign of Philip II (359-336 B.C.) circulated widely throughout the Hellenic world. His famous son, Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.), spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. For both Philip II and Alexander silver coins became an essential way of paying their armies and meeting other military expenses. They also used coins to make a realistic portrait of the ruler of the country. The Romans also used silver coins to pay their legions. These coins were used for most daily transactions by administrators and traders throughout the empire. Roman silver coins also served as an important means of political propaganda, extolling the virtues of Rome and her emperors, and continued in the Greek tradition of realistic portraiture. As well, many public works and architectural achievements were also depicted (among them the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus). In addition many important political events were recorded on the coinage. You can Romaan coins which depicted the assassination of Julius Caesar, alliances between cities, between emperors, between armies, etc. And many contenders for the throne of Rome are known only through their coinage.
Silver was also widely used as ornamental work and in other metal wares. In ancient cultures, especially in Rome, silver was highly prized for the making of plate ware, household utensils, and ornamental work. The stability of Rome’s economy and currency depended primarily on the output of the silver mines in Spain which they had wrested from the Carthaginians. In fact many historians would say that it was the control of the wealth of these silver mines which enabled Rome to conquer most of the Mediterranean world. When in 55 B.C. the Romans invaded Britain they were quick to discover and exploit the lead-silver deposits there as well. Only six years later they had established many mines and Britain became another major source of silver for the Roman Empire. It is estimated that by the second century A.D., 10,000 tons of Roman silver coins were in circulation within the empire. That’s about 3½ billion silver coins (at the height of the empire, there were over 400 mints throughout the empire producing coinage). That’s ten times the total amount of silver available to Medieval Europe and the Islamic world combined as of about 800 A.D.
Silver later lost its position of dominance to gold, particularly in the chaos following the fall of Rome. Large-scale mining in Spain petered out, and when large-scale silver mining finally resumed four centuries after the fall of Rome, most of the mining activity was in Central Europe. By the time of the European High Middle Ages, silver once again became the principal material used for metal artwork. Huge quantities of silver from the New World also encouraged eager buyers in Europe, and enabled the Spanish to become major players in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. Unlike the ores in Europe which required laborious extraction and refining methods to result in pure silver, solid silver was frequently found as placer deposits in stream beds in Spain’s “New World” colonies, reportedly in some instances solid slabs weighing as much as 2,500 pounds. Prior to the discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World, silver had been valued during the Middle Ages at about 10%-15% of the value of gold. In 15th century the price of silver is estimated to have been around $1200 per ounce, based on 2010 dollars. The discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has caused the price to diminish greatly, falling to only 1-2% of the value of gold.
The art of silver work flourished in the Renaissance, finding expression in virtually every imaginable form. Silver was often plated with gold and other decorative materials. Although silver sheets had been used to overlay wood and other metals since ancient Greece, an 18th-century technique of fusing thin silver sheets to copper brought silver goods called Sheffield plate within the reach of most people. At the same time the use of silver in jewelry making had also started gaining popularity in the 17th century. It was often as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, in order to encourage the reflection of light. Silver continued to gain in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the 20th century competed with gold as the principal metal used in the manufacture of jewelry. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of any metal, and one of the highest optical reflectivity values. It has a brilliant metallic luster, is very ductile and malleable, only slightly harder than gold, and is easily worked and polished. When used in jewelry, silver is commonly alloyed to include 7.5% copper, known as “Sterling Silver”, to increase the hardness and reduce the melting temperature. Silver jewelry may be plated with 99.9% pure ‘Fine Silver’ to increase the shine when polished. It may also be plated with rhodium to prevent tarnish. Virtually all gold, with the exception of 24 carat gold, includes silver. Most gold alloys are primarily composed of only gold and silver.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. Precious minerals were likewise considered to have medicinal and “magical” properties in the ancient world. In its pure form silver is non toxic, and when mixed with other elements is used in a wide variety of medicines. Silver ions and silver compounds show a toxic effect on some bacteria, viruses, algae and fungi. Silver was widely used before the advent of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, silver nitrate being the prevalent form. Silver Iodide was used in babies' eyes upon birth to prevent blinding as the result of bacterial contamination. Silver is still widely used in topical gels and impregnated into bandages because of its wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity.
The recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates, the ancient (5th century B.C.) Greek "father of medicine" wrote that silver had beneficial healing and anti-disease properties. The ancient Phoenicians stored water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent spoiling. These uses were “rediscovered” in the Middle Ages, when silver was used for several purposes; such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as a wound dressing. The ingestion of colloidal silver was also believed to help restore the body's “electromagnetic balance” to a state of equilibrium, and it was believed to detoxify the liver and spleen. In the 19th century sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable. Silver (and gold) foil is also used through the world as a food decoration. Traditional Indian dishes sometimes include the use of decorative silver foil, and in various cultures silver dragée (silver coated sugar balls) are used to decorate cakes, cookies, and other dessert items.
HISTORY OF TURQUOISE: Turquoise was mined by the ancient Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula from around 6,000 B.C. onwards in one of the world's first important hard-rock mining operations. Archaeological evidence suggests that by 4,000 B.C., the turquoise mines in the Sinai had already been exhausted, so popular was turquoise in the ancient world. Fortunately the ancient world had a second source of turquoise, Persia. The sky-blue variety of turquoise, commonly referred to as robin's egg, is and historically has been the most desired variety. This variety is mined exclusively in present-day Neyshabur, Iran. Archaeologists also believe that it is possible that some turquoise came to the Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean from China via the Northern Silk Route. The mineral has been valued for its ornamental and talismanic properties since ancient times. In ancient Tibet and China, turquoise was oftentimes valued higher than gold, and was thought to attract prosperity.
The Ancient Egyptians knew turquoise as “mefkat”, meaning joy or delight, and were known to carve it into animal figures worn as symbols of their gods, believing that turquoise itself had divine powers. Turquoise has been found in neckwear and bracelets recovered along with the 7,500 year old Egyptian mummy of “Queen Zer”. The ancient Egyptians not only used turquoise for jewelry, but also wore it as a talisman to keep evil away. Ancient Egyptian Priests stitched turquoise to their upper vests. In ancient Egypt, everyone from pharaoh to commoner wore turquoise. The ancient Persians themselves believed that health, wealth and happiness would be bestowed upon the wearer of turquoise, as reflected in an ancient Persian saying, “the wearer shall never be poor'”. It was worn around the neck or around the wrist in the belief that the wearer would be protected from an unnatural death. As talismans, they also adorned daggers, sabres and the bridles of horses. It was also believed by the ancient Persians that the gemstone would change color to warn the wearer of impending danger.
The horse-mounted tribes of Central Asia (Huns, Scythians, Cimmerians, Avars, Magyars, Mongols) wore turquoise talismans with the belief that they would protect against falls, particularly those from horseback. Turquoise was also commonly carved into pendants and beads by the ancient Sumerians, "founders" of modern civilization, as far back as 5,000 B.C. Some of the most splendid ancient jewelry ever unearthed by archaeologists was found in Queen Pu-abi's tomb at Ur in Sumeria dating from the 3rd millennium B.C., and in the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen's tomb. Turquoise was one of the most prominent gemstones found within these tombs, including on the famous mask of Tutankhamen. Both the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians produced highly sophisticated gold ornaments inlaid with turquoise. In ancient India, Afghanistan, Arabia and Persia, it was believed that the subtle variations in the color of the stone could be read as indications of the health of the person wearing it, and it was widely believed to change color to expose a woman's infidelity.
Throughout Ancient Asia as well as ancient Persia turquoise was believed to protect against the “evil eye”, related to the universal ancient belief that some evil sorcerers or witches had the ability to transmit evil with just a glance. In ancient Persia a turquoise gemstone was typically worn on a turban, often surrounded with pearls, in order to protect against the “evil eye”. Wearing turquoise as a talisman was also believed to protect one from floods. The ancient first century Roman Naturalist and Historian Pliny the Elder wrote of turquoise, known as “callais” to the ancient Romans. It is believed that turquoise was introduced to Europe only in the Middle Ages (at the time of the first Crusades) by Venetian traders. The trade route which developed saw turquoise being transported to Europe through Turkey, which probably accounts for the name “turquoise”, which is French for "Turkish." It was believed in Medieval Europe that a turquoise gemstone which changed color (became dehydrated) was a warning of impending danger for the wearer. Turquoise was also believed to awaken feelings of romantic love, and to enhance virtues such as trust, kindness, wisdom and understanding. Many Germanic peoples also used turquoise as a betrothal stone, and throughout Europe it was believed that wearing a turquoise amulet would protect travelers from violence, accidents, and injury.
The Aztecs of Mexico also commonly used turquoise for their fine mosaic art and introduced the stone to the surrounding areas, where it became known as “chalchihuitl”. To some tribes of ancient Mexico, mere mortals were not permitted to wear turquoise, which was reserved exclusively for the Gods. Turquoise was sacred to many American Indian tribes (as well as in ancient Tibet). The Zuni (of present-day New Mexico) in particular carved fetishes and talismans in the forms of animals, insects and other living shapes. Interestingly the Zuni believed that blue turquoise was “male”, and came from the sky; and that green turquoise was “female”, and came from the earth. Apache medicine men and shaman regarded turquoise as absolutely essential. Following a rainbow resulted not in a pot of gold but turquoise. Aiding the accuracy of a hunter's aim was another power highly valued by the Apache. The Apache believed that turquoise combined the spirit of water (as in lakes and rivers) and of the sky to protect the wearer from all natural calamities. Most Native American tribes believed that a deep connection existed between the spirits residing in the blue sky and the blue stone found in the earth. The Navaho believed that turquoise, when thrown into a river, would bring rain. Turquoise was also used by Native American shamans and healers in rituals and ceremonies. It was believed to enhance mental and spiritual clarity. There are also accounts of some Native American tribes using turquoise to decorate their teeth.
The color of turquoise ranges from blue and blue-green to greenish-gray, according to the various amounts of copper usually present. Like opal, turquoise is opaque, reflecting light from small transparent layers within the stone. Turquoise sometimes is "matrixed" known as a (“spider web matrix”) with varying shades of gray, brown, or black veins due to the inclusion of various oxides and impurities (often silver), and is greatly desired by many collectors. However the most valuable turquoise is still mined from Neyshabur, Iran, and is known as “robin’s egg blue”, though as is oftentimes seen with ancient specimens of turquoise, when exposed to sunlight or heat, this variety becomes dehydrated and turns "turquoise" green. Other less desirable deposits of turquoise are found in the Southwestern United States, the Sinai peninsula, Africa, Australia, Siberia, and Europe.
Turquoise is typically found in association with and regarded as a by-product of copper mining. It is formed when a chemical reaction takes place after water slowly enters into the rocks containing copper, aluminum, zinc and other phosphates. Bluer turquoise is due to the presence of copper in the gem, greener turquoise due to higher concentrations of iron or aluminum, and yellowish green color due to traces of zinc. Being relatively soft, turquoise gemstones are sensitive, easily discolored by chemicals, or even the oils and perspiration of the wearer’s skin. As the color may pale when the stone has been worn for a long time, even high-quality stones today are treated with wax or resin and subsequently hardened. This treatment makes the sensitive gemstone more resistant. Turquoise which has a good natural color and is simply hardened with colorless wax or resin has a much higher value than stones whose color has been “improved” with the use of dye.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and providing protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B.C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world turquoise was thought to protect against reptile and insect bites (and was even used as an antidote), poisons, eye diseases, accidents and violence. It was used to treat muscle aches, pains and soreness, arthritis of the hip, infections, stomach disorders, and bleeding. It was oftentimes used to treat respiratory disorders including asthma, sore throat, and to treat dental complaints. It was also believed to be a cure for blindness, and was sometimes used to predict the weather based on the perceived color changes of the gemstone.
On the metaphysical plane, turquoise was thought to facilitate attunement between the physical plane and higher planes of existence, and to foster spiritual growth and awareness. It was considered to be a protective stone, a healer of the spirit, providing soothing energy and peace of mind, benefiting those people suffering from low spirits or depression. Turquoise was believed to protect against curses, psychic or magical attacks (sorcery), and was believed to guard babies and young children. On the more profane side, Turquoise was also believed to bring spoils to warriors, and many kills to the hunter. New Age healers regard turquoise as the master healing stone, that it attracts healing spirits, and is useful in the treatment of respiratory, skeletal, and immune deficiency ailments; as well as an aid to tissue regeneration.
LAPIS LAZULI HISTORY: Most lapis lazuli contains iron pyrite in the form of golden flecks sprinkled throughout the gemstone, the hallmark characteristic of lapis lazuli, often compared by the ancient with stars in the sky. Lapis Lazuli was among the treasures of ancient Mesopotamia, Byzantium, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Lapis Lazuli gets its name from the Arabic word "allazward", meaning "sky-blue". Along with turquoise and carnelian, the three are undoubtedly amongst the most ancient of gemstones. For more than 7,000 years lapis lazuli has been mined as a gemstone in Afghanistan, near ancient Mesopotamia, and traded throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. The ancient source of lapis lazuli was these very same mines at Badakhshan (also known as the “Hindu-Kush” mountains), in the Persian highlands above the fertile Mesopotamian lowlands. The Persian highlands and plateau provided many of the raw materials lacking in the ancient civilizations abounding in the Mesopotamian lowlands (the "fertile crescent"). Records indicate that the Sumerian city of Ur imported lapis lazuli from the mines at Badakhshan as early as 4,000 B.C. In fact, the ancient royal Sumerian tombs of Ur, located near the Euphrates River in lower Iraq, contained more than 6,000 beautifully executed lapis lazuli statuettes of birds, deer, and rodents as well as dishes, beads, and cylinder seals.
The most ancient jewelry typically used one or more of three gemstones (carnelian, turquoise), and lapis lazuli was certainly very popular. How popular? One of the richest examples of ancient jewelry is Queen Pu-abi's tomb at Ur in Sumeria dating from the 3rd millennium B.C. In the crypt the queen was covered with a robe of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate, and chalcedony beads. The lower edge of the robe was decorated with a fringed border of small gold, carnelian, and lapis lazuli cylinders. Near her right arm were three long gold pins with lapis lazuli heads, and three amulets in the shape of fish. Two of the fish amulets were made of gold and the third, you guessed it, lapis lazuli. On the queen's head were three diadems each featuring lapis lazuli. At roughly the same point in time as Queen Pu-abi’s reign in Ur, lapis lazuli was also certainly popular in 3,100 B.C. with the Egyptians who used it in medicines, pigments (ultramarine), cosmetics (eye-shadow), carved into seals, and of course, in jewelry. The famous mask covering the head of Tutankhamen's mummy is inlaid primarily in lapis lazuli, with accents of turquoise and carnelian. In both the tombs of Tutankhamen and Queen Pu-abi, two of the richest tombs in all history, lapis lazuli was featured prominently in both.
Called the "stone of rulers," in ancient kingdoms like Sumer and Egypt, lapis was forbidden to commoners, worn only by royalty. Ancient Egyptians believed lapis lazuli to be sacred and used it in the tombs and coffins of pharaohs. Much of the lapis lazuli which flowed through the ancient land of Bactria and into Ur was exported to Egypt, where it was known as “khesbed”, which translates to “joy and delight”. In ancient Egypt lapis lazuli was widely used as a talisman believed to provide its wearers with good luck and ward off evil spirits and injury. Lapis lazuli was also thought to possess life-giving powers in ancient Egypt. Lapis was used to produce amulets to protect the mummified remains of pharaoh and commoner alike. It was a common practice to place a lapis amulet, engraved with a chapter of the Book of the Dead, over the area where the heart had been removed from the mummified remains (the heart was believed to be the repository of the soul), prior to the sealing of the sarcophagus. And it is also clear that coupled with gold, lapis lazuli was valued simply for its beauty as jewelry.
Lapis lazuli was also associated with the ancient Egyptian Goddess “Hathor”, goddess of love, music, and beauty, who was often referred to as "the lady of lapis lazuli." Lapis was also associated with both the night sky and the rising run, which was sometimes referred to as the "child of lapis lazuli." The stone was also associated with the primordial waters of the ancient Egyptian creation myth. The Nile was rendered in blue color on grave paintings, blue thought to represent fertility. Lapis lazuli hippopotamuses produced by ancient Egyptian artisans were popular as symbols for the life-giving river. There’s also some evidence that ancient Egyptian judges wore carved lapis amulets of Ma'at, the Goddess of truth, balance and order. These concepts were fundamental to Egyptian life and the rule of the Pharaohs, who portrayed themselves constantly as "Beloved of Ma'at" and "upholders of the universal order". Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs also described medicinal uses for lapis lazuli, including its use powdered, mixed with milk and mud from the Nile as a treatment for cataracts as well as head pains. And of course the ancient Egyptians made wide use of lapis lazuli as eye shadow. In fact, historians document its use as eye shadow by Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Ancient Egypt.
Popular with another Middle Eastern people, the Israelites, lapis is generally acknowledged by Biblical scholars to be one of the breastplate stones of the High Priest. To the ancient Hebrews, lapis lazuli was the symbol of success, capturing the blue of the heavens and combining it with the glitter of gold in the sun. It was also believed by the ancient Hebrews that the tablets upon which Moses received the Ten Commandments were of lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli was also used by the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians for cylinder seals. According to one ancient Persian legend, the heavens reflected their blue color from a massive slab of lapis upon which the earth rested. Throughout the history of the Ancient Middle East, lapis lazuli has often been regarded a sacred stone and to possess magical powers. The first century Roman historian and naturalist Pliny the Elder accurately described lapis lazuli, though the ancient Romans referred to it as “sapphirus”. The Romans also used lapis lazuli as an aphrodisiac, and associated lapis lazuli with the lord of Gods of the Roman pantheon, “Jupiter” (“Zeus” to the ancient Greeks). Lapis lazuli was also accurately described by Theophrastos, the fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher and naturalist.
Besides its use in jewelry, lapis lazuli has also been used since ancient times for mosaics and other inlaid work, carved amulets, vases, and other objects. In antiquity, as well as in the Middle Ages, there was the belief that the cosmos was reflected in gemstones. Lapis lazuli was associated with the planet Jupiter. In the medieval world lapis was ground and used as a pigment as well as for medicinal purposes. For medicinal applications, the powdered lapis lazuli was mixed with milk and used as a compress to relieve ulcers and boils. Lapis Lazuli and the mines at Badakhshan were described by Marco Polo in 1271 A.D., though the first written accounts of the mines had been produced three centuries earlier, in the tenth century A.D., by the Arab historian Istakhri. When lapis was first introduced to Europe, it was called "ultramarinum", which means "beyond the sea". It was identified as an emblem of chastity, and was thought to confer ability, success, divine favor, and ancient wisdom. According to the 17th century “Complete Chemical Dispensatory”, lapis lazuli was also effective as a cure for sore throat, used to combat melancholy, and a cure for “apoplexies, epilepsies, diseases of the spleen, and many forms of dementia”. The text also indicated that it could be worn about the neck as an amulet to drive away frights from children (timid children were given necklaces of lapis beads in the belief that they would develop courage and fearlessness) to strengthen sight, prevent fainting, and also to prevent miscarriages. Wearing an amulet made of lapis was also thought to free the soul from error, envy and fear as well as protect the wearer from evil.
Ground lapis was the secret of the blue in ultramarine, the pigment which painters used to paint the sea and the sky until the nineteenth century. Used as a pigment most extensively in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the secret behind some of the most beautiful Renaissance-inspired paintings was ground lapis lazuli. In no small part due to the tremendous demand for lapis to produce ultramarine, the cost of lapis was exorbitant in Renaissance Europe. A price list of gems in the eighteenth century, using the emerald as the unit of value, ranked sapphire as twice the value of emerald, ruby as thrice the value, and lapis as fifteen times the cost of emerald. Lapis was also popular in inlays. In what was once one of the cultural capitals of Europe, the columns of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia are lined with lapis, and the Pushkin Palace has forty foot tall lapis lazuli paneling! Though most of the lapis used in Russia’s landmark architecture was again, from Afghanistan, lapis lazuli was eventually discovered at Russia’s Lake Baikal, as well as in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. In the ancient history of Mesoamerica, an inferior grade of lapis lazuli was mined in Northern Chile for over 1,000 years by the Moche, a culture from the coast of Northern Peru (200 B.C. to 800 A.D.), who were skilled metalworkers, producing ornaments made of gold, silver, and lapis lazuli. Their traditions were carried forward by their successors the Chimu for another 600 years, the Chimu in turn ultimately absorbed by the Incas.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world it was believed that ground lapis lazuli consumed as a supplement bolstered skeletal strength and thyroid function. It was also believed to improve sleep, cure insomnia, and was used to treat varicose veins. On the metaphysical plane, lapis lazuli was believed to enhance ones awareness, creativity, extra-sensory perception, and expand ones viewpoint, while keeping the spirit free from the negative emotions of fear and jealousy. Even today lapis lazuli is regarded by many cultures around the world as the stone of friendship and truth. The blue stone is said to encourage harmony in relationships and help its wearer to be authentic and give his or her opinion openly.
HISTORY OF AGATE: Agate is named after its ancient source, the Achates River in Sicily, now known as the Drillo River, which remains a major source of this gemstone. The gemstone was so named by the 4th century B.C. ancient Greek Philosopher/Naturalist Theophrastus, who “discovered” the stone along the shore line of the river (there’s a dissenting opinion that the word agate is derived from the Greek word "agate??" – meaning happy). The Greeks used agate for making jewelry and beads. Ancient Greek mariners wore amulets of agate to protect against the perils of the sea. The Ancient Greeks also used agate to relieve stomach pains and diarrhea. However agate had already been used for by man for decorative and amuletic purposes for thousands of years prior to the ancient Greeks, first by Stone Age man in France around 25,000 B.C. Archaeological discoveries demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians used agate well prior to 3,000 B.C. for talismans, amulets, seals, rings and vessels. In the Ptolemaic Period (fourth century B.C. to first century A.D.) the ancient Egyptians carved agate carved into scarabs. The ancient Egyptians believed that gray agate when worn around the neck would protect against and heal stiffness of the neck.
Agate was also extremely popular for use in jewelry in ancient Sumer, and agate was amongst the archaeological artifacts excavated at the Knossos site on Crete evidencing its use by the Bronze Age Minoan culture (about 1,800 B.C.). Persian magicians were believed to possess the power to divert storms through the use of agate talismans. Ancient Persians also believed that agate would confer eloquence upon the wearer. The ancient Persians (as well as other ancient Near Eastern cultures) also used agate as an antidote to fevers by placing the agate in the mouth. It was said to relieve thirst and reduce body temperature. The ancient Babylonians used red agate to treat insect bites and stings, green agate to treat eye infections, and black agate (onyx) to protect women from disease. Agate talismans were worn in the Ancient Middle East to keep the blood healthy. In ancient Asia, agates were used by seers and magicians to see into the future.
Agate was highly valued as a talisman or amulet in many other ancient cultures. It was said to quench thirst and protect from fevers. Another widespread belief in the ancient world was that wearing agate as a talisman would render the wearer invisible, thereby protecting the wearer from danger. Athletes throughout the ancient world wore agate amulets with the belief that agate would give them extra energy during competition and help them recover their strength afterwards. Agate was also worn by various ancient cultures as protection against drowning, falling, mischievous fairies and poison, and was also believed an effective talisman to protect young children from harm. Farmers in many ancient civilizations (including the Romans) wore agate talismans to ensure a good harvest.
The Romans, as well as the ancient Greeks, made extensive use of agate in their production of cameos and intaglio seals (as in signet rings). Moss agate, according to the Romans, had a divine power and an agate stone was used to grind ingredients for lotions and other ointments on, believing it would improve one's eyesight and/or disposition. A famous collection of four thousand agate bowls that was accumulated by Mithradates, king of Pontus (Hellenic Turkey)Hellenic Turkey) is illustrative of the high value the ancient world had for agate. Agate bowls were also popular in the Byzantine Empire. Collecting agate bowls became common among European royalty during the Renaissance and many museums in Europe, including the Louvre, have spectacular examples.
Early Celts in Britain used the gem to prevent skin disease, and in Celtic mythology orange agate was believed to be a powerful protection against Dragons. The Vikings and Saxons used agate to find lost items by ax and stone, a method of divination known as “axinomancy”. A double-headed ax would be made red-hot and then the shaft pushed into a hole. A round agate pebble would then be placed on the upright ax head. If the pebble stayed on top of the ax, the questioner had to look elsewhere for the lost item. If the pebble fell to the ground, the questioner had to follow the direction of the rolling stone to find the missing item.
During the Roman wars with the Gauls (in the first century B.C.), agate deposits were discovered along the Nahe river (a tributary to the Rhine) in Germany. The gem-cutting facilities set up there by the Romans survived until present day and, although the deposits are now depleted, the city of Idar-Oberstein on the Nahe river is still the major lapidary center of Europe. Particularly from the 16th century onwards, huge quantities of cameos were cut from agate where layers of different colors occurred within the stone. The background material was cut away, leaving the cameo design in relief.
In the Middle Ages and through to the Renaissance agate was worn as a talisman in the belief it could prevent harm from thunder and lightening, sorcery, poison, drunkenness and demonic possession. Medieval shamans and sorcerers believed that agate allow them to divine the truth. Agate was also believed to remove curses and spells, and to help eliminate bad luck. In Renaissance Europe, agate was believed to have a calming effect during times of stress and to give the wearer strength and courage. Renaissance-era artists and writers wore agate in the belief it would enhance creativity. Wearing agate was also believed to improve vitality and physical strength, relieve headache pain, ensure marital and romantic fidelity, stimulate the intellect, and suppress anger. Agate was prized in Czarist Russia as a stone of long life, good health and prosperity.
Agate is a variety of chalcedony quartz composed of colorful microscopic crystals of quartz occurring in bands of varying color and transparency. Most agates start as gas bubble cavities in eruptive rocks or ancient lava. Silica laden water seeps into the bubbles and coagulates to a silica gel, eventually crystallizing as quartz. Agate is found in a wide variety of patterns and beautiful colors, and can be transparent to opaque. Many fossils (such as petrified wood, petrified coral, and even dinosaur bones) are agatized material where the original organic substance has been replaced by agate while retaining the original structure. The primary sources of agate today are Brazil, Uruguay, China, India, Madagascar, Mexico, the Ural Mountains of Russia, and the USA.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world it was believed that wearing agate made a person agreeable, happy, and cautious yet brave. Ancient cultures used it as a talisman as it was believed to bestow on the wearer protection against all dangers. White agate was used as a cure for insomnia and guaranteed pleasant dreams. Agate was also believed to improve memory and concentration, increase stamina and encourage honesty, as well as aiding wearers to remain calm and focused.
Contemporary practitioners attribute agate with fostering the ability to discover one's natural talents, enhancing analytical ability, and improving perceptiveness. It is believed to create a healthy balance between the physical, emotional and spiritual state of the wearer. Agate is reported to be an aid in overcoming fears and loneliness. It helps one view themselves with more clarity and view the world with a broader perspective. It is claimed to eliminate and cleanse “negative energies” from the body, and is thought to stimulate fertility and to be effective in treating bone marrow ailments and allergies. Due to the association with precision, agates are touted as useful talismans for accountants and bankers. And as in the distant past, agate is still considered an effective talisman which will increase wealth, good luck, long life, courage and strength; and to help protect and heal the wearer.
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