Over thousands of years and back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Christians, precious and semi-precious gemstones have been revered for their mystical and spiritual properties. As well as cultural and religious affiliations, they have always also represented the outstanding wealth of their owners.
In more modern times, the connection of particular stones to birth months was formalized in the United States in the early 1900s although assigning astrology to birthstone jewelry was first observed in Poland in the 15th century.
How Tanzanite Was Discovered
One day in 1967, a Masai tribesman named Ali Juuyawatu was walking along the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania when he found a stone. Perhaps he stubbed his toe on the rock or maybe its unusual color caught his eye, history doesn’t tell us that. We do know that this Masai warrior made history that day; he had discovered Tanzanite! To this day, this rare member of the zoisite group of minerals has been found in only one place on earth: a five-square mile hilltop near Arusha, Tanzania. In fact, Kilimanjaro International Airport is just ten miles north of where this rare gem is mined.
Nature makes them. Men sweat for them, cut them, polish them, steal them and also kill for them. Gemstones impress everyone, but some stones seem to take on a life of their own. These famous gemstones still fascinate us today.
Probably the most famous gemstone in the world, the Hope Diamond hides quite a tale in her lovely steel-blue facets. Mined originally in India, the owner sold it to the French King Louis XIV in the mid-1600s. About 100 years later when Louis XVI lost his throne and his head, the diamond disappeared along with the other French crown jewels.
Today, we have home security systems that set off an alarm if an intruder enters. In the future, we will be protected by a force field, like the one Scottie switches on when the Klingons are at the backdoor of the Enterprise and Captain Kirk starts getting nervous.
In ancient times, say roughly 20,000 B.C. the Stone Age people found comfort in agates, as a form of protection.
According to the 16th Century French poet, Remy Bellau, Bacchu the Greek god of wine, revelry, and debauchery was once captivated by a beautiful maiden by the name of Amethyste. Bacchus pursued the fair Amethyste relentlessly, chasing her for mile after mile. Desperate not to become the prey of the lustful god, Amethyste called out to the goddess of chastity, Diana, for help. To protect Amethyste’s treasured virginity, Diana turned the maiden into a stone of the purest white. Humbled by her sacrifice, Bacchus poured a libation of his symbolic wine onto the stone, staining Amethyste the most glorious purple.
In 1716, Prussia gave Peter the Great of Russia an extravagant gift honoring the peace between their nations - an entire room made of amber and encrusted with beaded jewelry. The panels were backed with gold leaf, which made the entire room glow with a topaz-like warmth.
The gorgeous Amber Room, made of real amber and beaded jewelry, glows like citrine or topaz. Image from Imaging-and-Art.com.
It was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Historians estimate that today it would be worth $146 million.