In 2020, it may seem that there is little to connect us to the ancient world. We live in a time without mystery - the maps are all filled in, our technology is at its pinnacle and even traveling to the moon is old-hat by this point. But there is still one form that connects all of humanity, regardless of century. It is a universal love, one which is present in every life, whether you were born twenty years ago or twenty thousand years ago. And that form is stories.
The way we experience stories is different today, but the essence of storytelling has remained the same. That is regardless of whether you experience them as tales told around an ancient campfire or a narrative played out on Netflix. Another thing that is also ancient and universal is gemstones. Gemstones take considerable geological time to form, and many of them come with ancient stories attached to them. Read on to find out the tales behind some of your favorite gemstones.
In Hindu mythology, moonstone is literally considered to be solidified moonbeams, and it’s not hard to see why. The iridescent pearly white color certainly looks like a small pocket of moonlight. In the earliest traditions of Hinduism, moonstone was said to have adorned the forehead of Ganesh (god of the moon) since the beginning of time, hence its scared status within the religion. This however isn’t the only cultural story of moonstone. Other cultures linked this gem with moonbeams too, thinking it resembled scattered shards of moonlight. Some traditions even believed that putting a moonstone in your mouth during a full moon gave one a glimpse of their future.
You may know that agate is associated with a brave heart and increased favor with the gods, but did you know that Roman farmers would carry talismans of agate so that they might produce prosperous harvests. The Romans associated this gem with Aurora, the goddess of dawn and the mother of the winds - she was closely linked with sunlight and growth, making her an important goddess for those who worked on the land. However, in Greek mythology, agate was more closely related to Gaia, a.k.a Mother Earth. Perhaps this link with the earth also explains why the ancient Persians used agate to try and divert storms.
Garnet is yet another gemstone with a rich and varied history that crosses both religion and mythology. In the old testament, it is said that garnet is one of the four precious stones gifted to King Solomon by God himself. This gem again appears in the Bible when Noah uses a glowing garnet stone to illuminate his ark. Garnet also has a special place in Greek mythology in some versions of the tale of Persephone and Hades. Garnet is also linked to pomegranate stones and safe travel (you can read more about this story in our previous blog post). Though garnet was used in ancient Greece for practical reasons, some report that Plato had his portrait engraved on a piece of garnet; hence it is linked with both work and art.
Amethyst fans may know this gem for its bizarre association with abating intoxication (along with its more well-known virtues such as fulfillment, serenity, and beauty). But once you know the Greek mythology underlying the gem, this meaning will make much more sense. Though there are many variations of this tale, one of the most famous features relates to the Greek god Dionysus (god of wine) who - after being insulted by a mortal - decided to slay the next mortal he crossed. The next mortal happened to be a beautiful young woman on her way to honor the goddess Artemis. Upon seeing this scene, Artemis spared the young woman’s life by turning her into crystalline quartz. Dionysus soon cried tears of wine out of guilt for his actions; these tears stained the quartz with its famous purple color. The Greek word ‘amethystos’ actually translates to ‘not drunken’ - which is probably why the ancient Greeks used to carve their wine goblets from the gem (whether it succeeded in preventing drunkenness is another matter entirely).
These may be the ancient tales of gemstones, but there are still many more to come! Why not pick out a piece of gemstone jewelry today, and create some new legends of your own.