Monday, 28 January 2013

Introduction to Gems And Precious Stones

Gem And Precious Stone
A precious stone is a small, rare, hard stone which has inherited from Nature the name of beautiful." Thus Piero Aloisi, in his classic treatise on gems of fifty years ago, quoted Anselm de Boodt, seventeenth century scholar and physician to Emperor Rudolf II of Hapsburg.
While the notion of size is debatable (there is no reason why a large stone should not be precious, the other four characteristics rarity, hardness, natural origin, and beauty together with chemical resistance, all constitute an acceptable definition of a precious stone. A natural object (and therefore a mineral), beautiful, rare, hard, and resistant. Let us look briefly at these properties:
 A precious stone should be a mineral, that is, an object formed spontaneously in nature, without human intervention. This property is essential to our definition, because many modern artificial stones are highly prized, and the synthetic varieties are sometimes virtually indistinguishable from the natural ones. Beauty is essentially a subjective concept, even if the appreciation of precious stones is commonly based on objective criteria, above all optical characteristics, such as dispersive power (the so-called play of colors), color, transparency, and high refractivity. Rarity too is a criterion which has more to do with the beholder than the beheld. It is connected to that part of human nature that prefers things that are hard to come by, partly to arouse in others a sense of envy. Despite their intrinsic qualities, no one would wear rubies for ornamentation if they were as common as pebbles on the beach.
The remaining two properties hardness and chemical resistance are truly objective because they are physical and chemical. Hardness is fundamental to a precious stone; scratching of the surface or abrasion of the edges would spoil its appearance. Similarly, poor chemical resistance would eventually lead to partial disintegration, depriving the stone of value by destroying its brilliance.
 A fabric of subjective and objective properties, fact and fantasy, sensations, fashions, superstition, and reality; celebrated by poets and studied by scientists, depicted by artists and worn by the fair sex, symbol of power and wealth, product of the miner's toil and the craftsman's skill a precious stone is all this something which has defied the passage of time and will surely continue to fascinate future generations: a thing of beauty.
Fantastic origins, not to mention magical and medicinal properties, used to be claimed for precious stones; though references were usually prefaced by something like "it is said that," or "it has been observed that," making it hard to deter-mine whether or not the authors believed what they were saying. Ice permanently frozen by intense cold (rock crystal); product of the earth's extreme aridity combined with the sun's powerful action (hyacinth); lynxes' urine and birds' tears (amber): these are just a few of the fantastic notions about the origins of precious stones not differing very much, truth to tell, from those once claimed for minerals of all kinds.
Precious Stone
Innumerable magical and medicinal properties were attributed to precious stones over the centuries: diamond gave immunity to poison and revealed infidelity; amethyst protected against drunkenness; heliotrope stopped nosebleed and conferred in visibility; sapphire enabled the wearer to escape from prison. These are merely a few better known examples, but there are also countless tales of stones with mysterious names, impossible to identify.
We may laugh at all this; but are we ourselves innocent of all trace of superstition? It is worth recalling that at the beginning of this century the Hope blue diamond was alleged to have brought death or economic ruin to its possessors.
Writer - Curzio Cipriani And Alessandro Borelli
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