Why do gemstones have a mystical, supernatural and symbolic importance?
What is it is about precious and semi-precious gemstones that humans have treasured for thousands of years. Even across cultures, religions, beliefs, and continents. Why have we allocated gemstones such as garnet and emerald as birthstones? We have used them to celebrate marriage anniversaries, health, the signs of the zodiac, the sun, the moon and the planets.
Value and status of gemstones
No doubt the individuality of precious gemstones is part of the attraction. It is human nature to want something that is unique. Our ancestors like us were attracted to the brilliance and colours of these gemstones. The rarity of the gemstones and difficulty in shaping, cutting and polishing added to their value. In modern times the status of gemstones has been enhanced by clever marketing such as that of diamonds by De Beers. The Zircon which is a more brilliant, valuable and rarer gemstone was discarded by De Beers in favour of diamonds, as they are more ready available and would provide the company with a larger number of stock, necessary to sell in bulk.
January’s birthstone – the pomegranate
Take January for example and its birthstones of Garnet and Emerald. Those born in this month are also covered by the astrological signs of Capricorn (Dec 23 – Jan 20) or Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18). These Zodiac signs include ten Talismanic gemstones: ruby, agate, garnet, lapis lazuli, onyx, amethyst, jasper, moss agate, opal, sugilite, and turquoise. The name “garnet” comes from Latin “granatum” meaning “pomegranate” because the crystals resemble the red color and seed-like shape of this fruit.
Rainbow shades of garnet
The ruby red shade is the one I was brought up with and I was surprised to find garnets come in a rainbow of colours, such as black, many shades of red, orange, brown, pink, blue and green, and even colorless. The garnet’s colours come from metals such as manganese, iron, calcium, and aluminium. The flame orange of Mandarin Garnet, the cinnamon hues of Hessonite Garnet to the rich green of Tsavorite Garnet and to the most widely recognized red color of Pyrope Garnet are found in many places around the world. They are found in North and South America, Australia, India, Pakistan, Asia, Bohemia and Spain.
Medicinal powers of garnet
Traditionally it is believed that the garnet gemstone brings friendship, loyalty and sincerity to those born in January. The gemstone is said to have the power to ensure good health and protect its owner during travel. As with many precious stones, garnets are believed to hold medicinal powers. The Crusaders used them to protect against wounds and accidents.
The power of the Church held back medical progress. As a result in Medieval times, the garnet’s reputation was almost supernatural and people believed that it protected its wearer against poisons, wounds and bad dreams. They also believed it could keep depression away and could scare away demons and evil spirits. Red garnets were thought to be particularly effective in relieving fever, hemorrhages and inflammatory diseases.
Ancient Ayurveda healthcare beliefs associate the garnet with the root and heart chakras. Leading to balancing purifying, aligning and removing negative energy from all the chakras and aura.
Religious and historical significance
There are many Biblical references to garnets, that it symbolizes the blood of Christ, it was also a garnet which provided light in Noah’s ark during the dark days of the great flood. The garnet also has great significance in Islam as it is referenced in the Koran as the gemstone that illuminated the fourth Heaven of the Muslims.
Garnet jewellery has been discovered dating back to 3100 B.C. in Egypt, where pharaohs were entombed with garnets as valued possession’s in the afterlife. Garnets were treasured in 3rd and 4th century Greece. They continued in popularity during Roman times, especially around the time of the Roman scholar Pliny (23 to 79 AD), when red garnets were among the most widely traded gems.
Ancient warriors believed that garnets brought victory. Warriors in Asia believed that glowing garnets, used as bullets, inflicted more severe wounds.
In Pre-Columbian Aztec and Native American civilizations garnets were also highly prized and used in ornaments and jewellery.
Welcome warmth in Winter
Whether you believe in the healing or mystical power of gemstones, men and women across millennia from the pharaohs and Aztecs to now with us wearing a necklace, earrings, bracelets to the office and parties we continue to appreciate the beauty of the pomegranate gemstone. All I know for sure is that the garnet, with its brilliant shades of red, green and golden amber brings a welcome warmth to the wintry monochromes of cold January.