By Sara El Halabi
Gemstones have long fascinated us. They have inspired myths, rituals, and recipes for the soul, mind, and body.
Whenever we think or hear something about gemstones, we imagine luxurious ornaments, queens and kings in their fashionable crowns, healers and sorcerers with quartzes, jewels embellishing ladies. Their glittery beauty steals our hearts, and we can almost feel their unique presence.
Yet, if we want to understand why so many people believe in the energy they emanate, we need to know the stories and myths about them.
Let’s explore some of the gemstones’ history and myths. In this first part, we’ll discover more behind The Soft Cheek’s gems that characterize our lovely jewels so that you can make your choice and learn more about your unique gemstone according to your month or day of birth.
What were gemstones used for?
People have treasured gems for many reasons throughout history. They used them in decorations, religious symbols, amulets, and lucky charms.
On the one hand, gemstones have been used for medicinal purposes and as investments to safeguard riches. While on the other hand, nobles used them to exhibit wealth, status, and power.
What about the Gem Lore?
Ancient wisdom is filled with stories of gemstones with magic and symbolic characteristics. Superstitions around gems are endless and sometimes clashing. People believed that certain crystals would protect them from misfortune, illness, and sorrow.
Now that we understand how people used to see gemstones, let’s dive into the history of the most relevant gems in our online store!
The central belief around this gemstone is that it guards against drunkenness. This myth belongs to the Ancient Greeks, who believed people could drink all night and stay sober if they carried an amethyst or placed it in their mouths.
The French poet Remy Belleau created another story about Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, in 1576.
The old story tells that a beautiful maiden named Amethyst was on her way to the Temple of Diana, the goddess of hunting and wild animals. Nevertheless, the poor girl crossed paths with the drunk god of wine, Bacchus. He unleashed his two guardian tigers upon the maid, but the goddess Diana intervened, turning her into a clear stone.
To compensate for his actions, Bacchus poured his wine over the stone, staining it in deep violet, becoming the legendary Amethyst.
The ancient Egyptians incised amethysts into amulets for prayer and protection against harm. Later, artisans used it to create exquisite pieces.
Early Christians associated the amethyst with Christ since its purple colors represented the purity of spirit and chastening. This association led to the belief that the gem soothes physical passions.
Its color alluded to the wounds and suffering of Christ, linking amethysts to the healing of injuries.
According to another legend, St. Valentine wore an amethyst ring with the Cupid’s shape. Still, this story contradicts the gem’s reputation for calming passions, but chaste love was highly considered true love in medieval times.
Many psychics use it to enhance their tarot readings because Amethyst helps the mind flow freely between the mental and metaphysical dimensions.
People believed that citrine could calm anger, manifest prosperity, and instill confidence and healing wisdom.
The first records about the citrine gemstone go back several years to Ancient Greece, where it was used as a decorative gem. At the same time, Romans believed citrine could protect them against evil thoughts and snake venom, while other cultures used it to attract prosperity.
Citrine is attributed to two deities: Demeter, the Greek goddess of harvest and productivity, and Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of war and power.
Egyptians used it as talismans, Greeks carved iconic images into it, and Roman priests fashioned them into rings.
Legend tells that men who hold the stone became more attractive and intelligent, while women would bear more children and be happier. Many believed that holding citrine would help hoard wealth and success, attract true love, and prevent heartbreaks.
During the 17th century, jewels and daggers were adorned with citrine. Pieces made with this gem were precious to the owners.
Queen Victoria was fond of this gemstone and used it to decorate her and Prince Albert’s summer residence in the 19th century. Many were inspired by the queen and used citrine in Scottish shoulder brooches and kilt pins.
The gemstone saw global growth in the 1930s when a group of gem cutters moved from Germany to South Africa, where the stone was predominant. These specialists shipped large amounts of citrine back to Europe to create fine jewelry.
Chinese legends also hold citrine as the Stone of Success, for it increases intellectual aptitudes and promotes thoughts of abundance. It was also known as the Merchant Stone because shopkeepers often kept it near their cash register to maximize profits.
Afterward, during the Art Deco movement, designers started fashioning Hollywood stars, such as Greta Garbo, with citrine jewelry, highlighting its tradition of success, beauty, and wealth. It became an immortal aspect of the art deco style.
People associated garnet’s fire color with creativity. It symbolizes the life force, especially feminine energy.
Red garnet was the favorite among Egypt’s pharaohs, who were buried with this gem adorning their mummified corpses. Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, signet rings with garnets were used to stamp the wax that secured letters and documents.
In Greek mythology, garnets were associated with pomegranates, representing the only food Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, ate when she was kidnapped by Hades and trapped in his underworld. After eating some seeds, she had to remain in the underworld for that many months, representing the months of winter.
Another tradition says Noah brought a gem into the Ark as a source of light. The Sun and Moon didn’t shine during the Flood, but this stone shone “more brilliant by night than by day, enabling Noah to distinguish between day and night.”
In China, people believed garnets represented a tiger’s soul. After the animal dies, it transforms into this red gem.
The Hunza warriors from Kashmir shot garnet bullets with bows and guns, believing it would inflict severe wounds.
Celtic and Saxon kings preferred to wear garnet for their protection, while Native American healers also believed garnets possessed protective powers, specifically against injury and poison. King Solomon used to wear garnets in his battles, and Christian and Muslim warriors wore them on their journeys during the Crusades.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, The Great Carbuncle (1837), tells the tale of a group of adventurers seeking a legendary gem in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that shines with a red light so brilliant it could “make a noonday of midnight.” Also, a carbuncle might have been one of the four precious stones God gave to King Solomon.
Remember Prince William’s pearl and garnet ring to Kate Middleton before their engagement? It was the center of public attention due to its romantic and royal meaning since both gems are the couple’s birthstones.
Garnets were often exchanged between friends as tokens that bound them together.
This gemstone used to be confused with its sisters: topaz and emerald.
The Egyptians called it the Gem of the Sun, for they believed it protected them from “terrors of the night,” especially if set in gold. Others used it around their left arms to repel evil spirits.
Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection might have been peridot. Yet, Cleopatra loved the gem for its beauty, and she was sure it protected her from evil spirits.
Egyptian priests used goblets encrusted with peridot to commune with their nature gods since they thought the gem held the power of nature.
For centuries, people believed that the 200-ct gems adorning the Three Holy Kings’ shrine in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral were emeralds, but they were peridots.
An ancient Hawaiian folklore states the gem to be Pele’s tears, the goddess of elements. They thought that when it rained, peridot would fall from the sky.
Spinel was history’s most undervalued gem.
Ancient royal courts from Rome to China overused spinel, but it was usually confused with stones like ruby and sapphire. Therefore, it was a symbol of wealth and royalty.
In 1367, Prince Edward of Wales, known as the Black Prince, received as a victory present a historic crimson-red gem owned by several Moorish and Spanish Kings before him. Afterward, it became cherished by many English monarchs, including Henry VIII.
When Catherine the Great ascended to the throne of Russia in 1762, she ordered a new Imperial Crown for her Coronation. The unique and stunning crown was styled with spinel and inspired by the medieval Byzantine. Since then, spinel was known as the Ruby of Catherine the Great.
Yet, that same gem was previously owned by the Chinese Emperor Koh Khan and his family for centuries until Nikolai Spafari, the Ambassador of the Russian Empire to China, found a way to sell the gemstone to Emperor Alexi Mikhailovich, the second Czar of the Romanov dynasty in 1676. The spinel sat in the imperial treasury for years before it was used in the Imperial Crown for Catherine the Great. Since then, all Czars, including Nicholas II in 1896, wore it.
Ancient Greeks believed topaz to be the gem of strength, and for centuries, people in India wore it above their hearts to ensure long life, beauty, and intelligence.
During the Middle Age, it was alleged that topaz brought natural powers to its holder. In The Book of Wings, from the 13th century, it is mentioned that a falcon carved on a topaz helps “to acquire the goodwill of kings, princes, and magnates.”
In Europe, during the Renaissance Era (1300s – 1600s), people believed topaz could break magic spells and dispel anger.
In his book Rings For The Finger, George Frederick Kunz, a gemstone and jewelry expert, writes that topaz was “the most honorable of stones above all other stones.” He also confirms that Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) sent Richard Coeur de Lion four gold rings with different symbolic stones.
The ‘Golden Age’ for topaz occurred when Portuguese traders exploited the gem in Brazil. By the middle of the 18th century, they shipped the gem to Lisbon and Porto to be cut and set in a varied range of jewels, including pendants, brooches, and long earrings that reached the shoulders.
We also find topaz in selected designs from expert jewelers and collectors, such as the Fabergé in diamond-set brooches of Neo-Classical inspiration from the Regency Era.
Today, topaz is abundantly used in Georgian jewelry.
Some feminine stones, such as Moonstone, Selenite, and Rose Quartz, embody the gentle and nurturing nature of the divine feminine. Meanwhile, smoky quartz focuses on the forest’s wild, wise, and healer woman, who is connected deeply with Mother Nature.
Smoky quartz highlights this energy, which rests inside you and helps develop it. Sleeping with smoky quartz or using it daily can help unleash your natural, intuitive spirit.
Smoky quartz was associated with gods that represent darkness, such as Hecate, and some Celtic gods, such as Dubh and Crom, the goddess of the Dark Moon. It also represents the harvest festival of Samhain.
Royal families during the Victorian era used smoky quartz as jewelry for mourning after the loss of a loved one. Queen Victoria was known to wear smoky quartz after her husband’s death to represent her grief.
People also believe this gemstone protects against psychic attacks.
Mystic Rainbow Quartz
People started wearing the mystic rainbow quartz around 25,000 years ago, making it a young gemstone. Nevertheless, we began seeing it in jewelry around 1998.
Brazil, Madagascar, the United States, and the Alps are some of the most important deposits of this gem.
We can’t state enough that natural zircon has the spiritual power to end worries & dilemmas in relationships. Zircon greatly benefits the married and those who want to improve their relationship with their in-laws, family, friends, and neighbors.
In the past, astrologists believed zircon attracted love and worked as a medicine stone to heal sorrow & loneliness. It was also recommended as an amulet for travelers to protect them against the plague and injuries.
The oldest zircon specimen recorded was from Australia at approximately 4 billion years, making it one of the most ancient gemstones in the world!
During the Middle Age, people used zircon to induce sound sleep, repel evil, and provide prosperity and wisdom.
During the Victorian Era, blue zircon was the most popular. It has adorned the English nobility’s jewelry since the 1880s as a substitute for diamond.
Which one is your gemstone?
Now you have it: your complete guide to the history and myths around our most precious gemstones.
It is your turn. Pick your distinctive gemstone from our online shop, and rest assured that your gem—whether it’s rendering your day or month of birth—will hold the energy for you.
Read our articles on gemstones. Here is one that explains the gems for each birth month and another that tells you about your birth day gem. With this information, you can pick a suitable stone for you.