But gemstones, in addition to their obvious visual appeal, also have a deeper meaning. The underlying symbolism of gems is a fascinating and complex subject, one which covers many centuries and cultures. It is both interesting and informative to explore how people from various periods and places have ascribed specific powers to precious stones.
The amethyst, for example, is credited with a rather extraordinary ability. For hundreds of years - since the time of the ancient Greeks, in fact - this delicate gemstone has been seen as a form of protection against intoxication.
Indeed, many gemstones are thought to have special significance. The blue sapphire has long been regarded as a talisman or good luck charm, while the vibrantly green emerald was used to treat or even cure eye problems. And in India, the ruby is one of the most highly valued gemstones. For this reason, red rubies are considered to be a "royal" gem in India.
Pearls are another category of important gems. The legends that surround these mysterious and elusive objects come from many diverse civilizations, from Europe, to Egypt, to Asia. And due to the difficulties involved with acquiring pearls, they are potent symbols of wealth. The inherent value of pearls is demonstrated in a dramatic tale in which the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra convinced Marc Antony of the wealth of her country by crushing - and apparently consuming - a pearl. This action, no doubt, had quite an impact on the Roman!
Today, many of us flaunt our obsession with gemstones in less theatrical ways. And in the modern world, perhaps one of the most recognizable forms of the symbolic association of gems involves what are referred to as birthstones. The legend of birthstones is an intriguing tale in itself.
The fashion for birthstones began well before our own time. And it is not surprising to learn that the trend of identifying a person's month of birth with a specific stone has its roots in astrology. In the case of birthstones, the obvious connections between astrology and gems make this a tantalizing topic for those of us who appreciate the subtle and mysterious language of symbolism.
The Art Book
This beautiful book is sure to enhance any art lover's library. It features a collection of art masterpieces, presented in a format that emphasizes the selected works of painting and sculpture. Stunning color images grace the pages, and every picture is accompanied by a concise description of each featured work and artist.