|Agate: A symbol of worldly success and happiness, agate also attracts sympathy for the wearer. Black agate stands for courage, prosperity and vigour, red agate for health, longevity and spirituality.|
Decorative and durable, jewels and precious metals have been used for centuries as talismans and amulets, and have acquired rich symbolic associations. Alchemy, for example, is centred on the quest for the philosopher's stone which will turn base metals into gold, and in astrology, each sign of the zodiac has an associated birthstone, which symbolizes the attributes of the sign.
A horde of gold and jewels hidden in a cave guarded by a dragon or serpent commonly represents the spiritual wisdom buried in the unconscious. In many religions a gem signifies a particular deity or holy person: in Christianity, for example, quartz stands for the Virgin Mary. Cut gemstones symbolize the revelation of the soul after the dross of the body has been chipped away: the sparkling facets denote the soul's reflection of the divine light. But gemstones can also have negative connotations. In Christian myth, they were formed when Lucifer fell from heaven, his angelic light shattering in to millions of lustrous fragments that stand for the inherent evil of material possessions.
Gold and jewels can also denote the wiles of the enchanter. Fairies used gold and rubies to entice mortals away from home and family at night; tragically for the victims, the treasure turned into the dead leaves of human vanity in the cold light of day. The ambivalence of gem symbolism is exemplified in the Eastern belief that jewels were formed from the saliva of snakes, representing both venom and spiritual wisdom.
In many traditions of East and West, it was believed that gold and silver were solidification of solar and lunar energies respectively. Gold remains always untarnished, like the sun, while silver is subject to imperfections, like the face of the moon.
Particularly prized as a mark of divine favor, success and talent, lapis lazuli is also associated with unselfish love and compassion. For the Chinese, the stone symbolized vision and the power to cure diseases of the eye. In the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, lapis lazuli symbolized the firmament, and was used to decorate the ceilings of temples.
This gemstone symbolizes royalty, power and passion. Because of its deep red color, the ruby was associated with the planet Mars. It was considered by some to be a cure for mental disorders.
Because of its pale, shimmering hue, the pearl has lunar, and therefore feminine, associations. Its origin in the sea within the shell of an oyster has caused it to be linked with hidden knowledge and esoteric wisdom. Pearls also symbolize patience, purity and peace, and owing to their translucent quality they can stand for tears of sorrow or joy.
Gold and Silver
Revered for its incorruptibility, gold is a near-universal symbol of the sun, divine illumination, purity, masculinity, immortality and wisdom. In ancient Egypt, it was the tangible presence of the gods in the material. The Aztecs saw gold as the excrement of the sun god, the Chinese Taoists as the essence of heaven. Silver, a lunar, feminine symbol, stands for virginity and eloquence (the silver tongue). When polished, silver represents the soul cleansed of sin: it is ambivalent mainly in pieces of silver symbolized Christ's betrayal.
A symbol of fertility and rain (because of its green color), the emerald was associated by the alchemists with wisdom, and by the Christians with faith. In astrology it was linked with the planet Jupiter.
The hardest of all the elements, diamond is associated with permanence and incorruptibility. It also symbolizes the sun and light, and in some early Christian texts stands for Christ.
The most precious of all stones to the Chinese, for whom it symbolized the perfection, immortality and magical powers embodied in the emperor: heaven was often depicted as a perforated jade disk. Each color of jade was credited with magical powers, but apple-green was most highly prized as it was believed to confer on the wearer the power of levitation.
The sapphire symbolizes the blue of the heavens, and the heavenly virtues - truth, contemplation and chastity. The alchemists believed it to be a remedy for the bites of venomous animals.
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