“These gems have life in them: their colours speak, say what words fail of.” George Eliot
At Ottoman Hands we believe that every natural gem not only has its own lore and character, but like all treasures, which come from the Earth - energy, making it a beautiful talisman, packed with meaning and history. So, with Christmas around the corner we have decided to explore the beautiful world of semi-precious stones and how they make thoughtful jewellery gifts even more special.
Gemstones in all their intensely colourful, raw beauty have captivated humanity for millions of years. From rough, uncut pebble-like stones ancient hunter-gatherers used to adorn themselves with, to grand gems so alluring and dazzlingly expensive they sparked revolutions and built empires (the fabled diamond necklace of Marie Antoinette – and no less fabled affair connected with it –further ignited the already burning fire of the French revolution; Queen Elizabeth I’s quest for Le Peregrina – the most famous pearl in history, gifted to her half-sister Queen Mary I of England by King Philip II of Spain – contributed to England developing into a naval empire). The rarity of gemstones, their almost mystical glow and incredible colours and textures, have made these unusual minerals the subject of legends and lore.
The minerals first used in gemstone jewellery and crafts were the ones, that were relatively easy to find and shape. The earliest jewellery discovered by archaeologists can be traced to the ancient civilisation, which inhabited the territory of modern-day Iran around 3,000 BC - 400 BC. The pieces found were usually simple gemstone amulets and seals. Gems such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, amber, coral and malachite were among the first to be worked on and used in adornments not only in the Mediterranean, but all over the globe.
We have picked five of our favourite stones this season - the gems, which we have used to add character and meaning to our gold jewellery: pearls, labradorite, agate, turquoise and ruby.
Pearls. The Gem of True Beauty and Femininity.
This mesmerising stone is considered to be one of the oldest gems known to mankind, possibly, in part, due to its perfect form created by the nature itself, when other minerals require careful shaping to bring out their lustrous beauty.
In many cultures of the antiquity pearls have been associated with moon and its mythology, as well as with love, purity and divine perfection. In Greek Mythology this gem often represented Aphrodite, in ancient Egypt it was linked with the mother goddess - Isida, and in China with Pearl maiden - Xi Shi, the beauty of whose could only be rivalled by the heavens. It carried not only divine symbolism, but was used as an emblem of power and wealth. During the Middle Ages in France and Italy, only aristocratic families could wear pearls.
Pearls have always been difficult to find and despite being a ‘gemstone’, it is not a ‘stone’, but rather a gem, formed by a living organism - a mollusc. The organic material, which forms pearls consists of crystal elements, which vary in size and position, stacked on top of each-other like little building blocks. The rounded top layer as well as the peculiar crystal structure gives the pearl it’s beautiful glow.
Pearls are said to bring the wearer centring and calming reflection, enhance sincerity and loyalty. They are a strong symbol of Femininity, helping women connect with their ‘inner goddesses’ and obtain the ultimate ‘feminine energy’. Due to their water and Lunar elements, pearls are believed to have high frequencies of energy vibrations which can re-balance deficiencies in the body.
This season we have looked to this gemstone to bring opulence and elegance to our gold jewellery, using Barque Pearls - stunning irregular shaped natural pearls, with lots of character and charisma. Interesting fact - one of the most famous Baroque Pearls - the Canning Jewel - is now part of the majestic collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Discover our collection of Pearl rings, pearl earrings and necklaces inspired not only by nature, but by the glorious treasures and gems of the past.
Labradorite. The Stone of Truth and Magic.
Labradorite has been discovered fairly recently - in 1770 on the Labrador Peninsula of Canada, where it takes its name.
According to an ancient legend Northern Lights were trapped inside the rocks along the coast. They were found and freed by an Inuit warrior. Sadly, the warrior couldn’t release all the lights and so some still remain imprisoned in this beautiful gemstone.
Labradorite is a feldspar mineral. It shows beautiful blue light, glistening from the depth of the mineral, as the result of the diffraction of light within the stone. This optical effect is so unique, it received its name from the gem - ‘labradorescence’.
The most famous labradorite in history is a carved labradorite soldier cameo displayed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Labradorite was also used as a decorative material in the 19th century St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia.
This beautiful gem is thought to be a magical stone that possesses powerful protective properties and aids the wearer in finding their true path in life. It is believed to awaken one’s own awareness of inner spirit and intuition. Labradorite helps to bring clarity to an over active mind and joy and spontaneity to the daily routine.
We love how Labradorite makes every jewel glow. Below are just a few labradorite jewellery pieces, which we love.
Agate. The Stone of Protection.
Agate has been used by craftsmen for centuries as a precious material for carvings and small objects and cameos, employing the contrast between the different layers of the stone to heighten the relief.
Unique colours and markings of this gem made it highly regarded in antiquity. According to Pliny the Elder, agate was believed to make its wearer "agreeable and persuasive and give them god's favour." In the 1800's, amulets made from brown and black agate, with exquisite white ring at the centre were so popular that stone cutters in Germany had no time to cut anything else.
Agate is a variety chalcedony, characterised by its fineness of grain and brightness of colour. This gemstone comes in a selection of beautiful hues and can be found all over the world.
Being the oldest gemstone in recorded history, agate is known as a stone of Protection and is highly valued as a talisman. It is believed to stabilize the aura and balances intellectual, emotional and physical energies, creating harmony. Agate is also though to promote love.
Turquoise. The Amulet, which brings Strength.
This gem is regarded as one of the world’s most ancient gems. Archaeologists found mesmerising examples of turquoise jewellery, which used to adorn Egyptian rulers. Chinese artisans have also been carving this gemstone for over 3,000 years.
The gemstone’s name comes from the French expression ‘pierre tourques’, or “Turkish stone.” Historians believe, the stone was first was brought to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean by Levantine traders, more commonly known as Turks.
Turquoise was a ceremonial gem, used in jewellery and amulets, as well as an antique currency for Native American tribes in the southwestern America. The Apaches believed that a turquoise stone attached to a bow brought luck. Early Persians believed that Turquoise represented the heavens because of its beautiful blue colour and used it to cover the domes of palaces and places of worship.
Some of the most famous Turquoise pieces include the mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec god of fire and the iconic mask of Tutankhamun, inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli and other gemstones.
This gem is popular for its protective qualities and healing powers. It represents the water element in Feng Shui, and is believed to attract wealth and bring peace and vitality. It strengthens the wearer and helps to find the wholesomeness and truth.
Ruby. The Gem of Passion and Prosperity.
This gem has long been one of the most treasured and significant coloured stones. It’s deep and intense blood-red hue, the same colour, which is often associated with the strongest emotions – like love – in early cultures was believed to reflect the power of life. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.” It is also one of the four most precious stones known to mankind together with sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.
The history and lore of this gemstone is as rich as its colour. People in ancient India believed that rubies enabled their owners to live in peace and prosperity. In Burma (a ruby source since at least 600 AD), warriors carried rubies to make them invincible in battle. With time, the significance of this stone did not fade: it became one of the most sought-after stones by European royalties and aristocracy.
The inner glow of this beautiful stone, resembling rumbling fire, has inspired interesting legends, such as that a hidden ruby can reveal itself by shining through the wrapping.
Ruby has long been considered a talisman for Passion and Prosperity. It symbolises the sun, and its glowing red hue suggests an inextinguishable flame. The stone is believed to increases vitality and stimulates the circulation of energy, overcoming exhaustion and lethargy.
To find out more about our beautiful semi-precious stones, visit Stone Guide on our website.
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