The history of precious stones


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The history of precious stones

Precious stones have been known to man for more than 10,000 years. They remained the preserve of the wealthy classes, serving as a symbol of status. Later, princes displayed their worldly power with bejewelled insignia. Crowns, the temporal symbols of rule for kings and emperors, were transformed by jewels into mystical halos alluding to divine right. Such crown jewels can now be enjoyed in treasuries and museums around the world.

Until the beginning of the 19th century precious stones were even valued for their medicinal properties. They were administered in three ways, either the mere presence of a certain stone was enough in itself or it was placed on the affected part of the body or pulverised and taken internally.

Precious stones also have an established place in religion and its rites. The breast plate of Jewish high priests was adorned with four rows of gem stones. Jewels also decorated the tiaras and mitres of popes and bishops, as well as monstrances, reliquaries and icons in Christian churches. Gem stones also serve as images in the Bible, even being used as a reflection of the exultant glory of God. All the other great religions of the world employed precious stones, whether as ornate decoration for cult objects or for the enhancement of buildings.