J is for Jewels
Symbols in Stories from Around the World
From “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” to “Good advice is rarer than rubies,” the world is full of odes to the different gems found within the earth. Stories are rich with stories that feature gems, though every type of gem has its own meaning.
We cannot cover all the gems in the world. The coloring and whether it was cut or uncut made the difference in meaning. A cut gem meant the soul was free from the baseness of humanity.
Many mythical creatures desired jewels such as the dragon, the gnome, the jinn, the leprechaun, and the salamander. Though, humans always were greedy for such treasure or heroes were blessed with such riches.
For this, our attention will be on diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.
An uncut clear diamond means hidden treasures while a diamond. In fact, an uncut diamond is more valuable in India. The Roman Venus, goddess of love, has a planet named after her. The planet Venus is also known as Shukra in India and represented as a diamond within the Navratnas Talisman (Nine-Gem Jewels). Later, diamonds were the jewels of choice for wedding rings and symbolized true love.
This clear and hardest of all stones is important as a Buddhist symbol. The purity and strength of the stone became the diamond mace (vajra) on the feet of Buddha. A thunderbolt fell from the sky and transformed into a diamond. Wisdom from the Buddha came from the diamond or thunderbolt realm.
The transparency of the stone also became a symbol for sincerity and constancy.
This red stone easily linked to fire. Some people say that the ruby is red because inside the stone is an eternal flame. This flame, if released, could boil whatever it touched so tossing a ruby into a pot of water was thought to make the water boil.
The Roman god of war, Mars, connected to the blood-like coloring of these stones and were loved by this god. Yet, the ruby represented the Sun and not Mars in the Nine-Gem Jewels and was the most precious of all stones. As a result, the ruby was in the center while any other stone was around it (see diamond explanation above).
The Chinese saw the ruby as signifying the heart. Buddhists saw the ruby as the tears of Buddha. Christians thought the ruby to symbolize glory.
For the Greeks, the ruby had the ability to contain a six-pointed star. In this culture, the number six was lucky and linked to Venus. Thus, the ruby had the power to create powerful love charms. A ruby worn on the left hand brought good luck to the wearer in health, wealth, and wisdom.
This bright blue stone was so glorious that the Jews said that the throne of God was made of sapphires. This linked the stone to the heavens. Then, some people believe that the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God were written on sapphire. Thus, the sapphire meant enlightenment. The Kabbalists believed that the angel Raziel shared the mysteries of heaven to Adam and were written in “The Book of Sapphire.”
In India, the sapphire represented Saturn in the Nine-Gem Jewels (see diamond explanation above). For the Greeks, the sapphire had the ability to contain a six-pointed star. Sound familiar? Rubies and sapphires shared this quality and thus linked to Venus and the power to create powerful love charms. Sapphires had the added benefit of protecting. For example, a poisonous snake placed in a vessel made of sapphire would be killed instantly.
The three shafts of light found on a sapphire represented faith, hope, and destiny.
This bright green stone reminded the Greeks of the green foam upon the sea when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, came to be.
In India, the emerald represented Mercury in the Nine-Gem Jewels (see diamond explanation above).
The Egyptians made amulets with emeralds and wore them in hopes for eternal youth. Not far from that idea, the Romans made emerald rings and placed them on virginal girls to represent resurrection that was then adopted by Christianity. The papal ring features the emerald.
The religion of Hermeticism that was popular during the Renaissance thought the Holy Grail was made from emeralds. Sacred texts written by Hermes Trismegistus were called the “Emerald Tablet.” The emerald was also thought that emeralds could heal eyes and be an antidote for poison.
Emeralds were said to be in the nests of griffins. Emeralds placed under the tongue could help predict the future. These stones, due to the coloring, also symbolized spring, fertility, and rain.
Some stories that feature jewels:
- “Diamonds and Toads,” French fairy tale, two sisters have different dispositions that earns one to speak and always have diamonds come from her mouth and the other to speak and always have toads come from her mouth
- “The Sea King and the Magic Jewels,” Japanese folktale, a prince lost his brother’s fish hook and the brother only wants that one returned so the guilty prince travels to the Sea King and meets the Jewel Princess (and involves other jewels along the way)
What stories do you know that involves jewels? Diamonds? Rubies? Sapphires? Emeralds? Please comment below and share with others of this post.
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