Gemstones & Birthstones: Magic, Mystical, Medicinal Ruby
In times past, rubies, among other gemstones, were considered medicinal and magical. Hold them under your tongue, wear them, or grind them up and drink them down–probably in wine–and they were alleged to cure a number of ills.
PHOTO ABOVE: Yellow gold Keeping Vessel set with rubies. Photo by Ralph Gabriner. Courtesy Billie Lim.
The catch was that often any red stone was considered a “ruby” and an appropriate amount of cash was charged for the cure. When the potion failed to work, it was easy to blame the failure on an adulterated powder or a stone of impure color. Of course, if the patient did not survive, then there would be no one to complain, so…
But still, with their extraordinary hardness and remarkable color it’s probably no wonder that miracles have been attributed to rubies. Because of their color, they were associated with passion and thought to relieve anger and discord. They were believed to staunch bleeding, and the toughest Burmese warriors would have rubies inserted into their flesh in order to be rendered invulnerable to an attack by any weapon.
Even today we’re in thrall to gemstones. Modern science may have disproven the medicinal attributes of gemstones, but looking at the rich color and beauty of these stones, it’s hard to believe there isn’t some kind of latent, personal magic in our birthstones. Metal artist Billie Lim, in fact, acknowledging the special affinity human beings have for beautiful gemstones and jewelry, calls her pieces Talismans for Modern Living.
At the very least, looking at a beautiful ruby can lift the spirits, and sometimes that’s all the miracle we need.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing on gemstone and jewelry topics for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of Birthstone Romances under the name Liz Hartley.
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