Gemstones: Introduction



Gemstones have played an important role in the religious and secular life of India from very early times. They were used in sacred ceremonies as magical charms and for protection against all forms of evil besides being decorative or luxury items. They were also considered to have invaluable healing powers. Their worth was equally tied to their spiritual qualities, their aesthetic appeal, their monetary value and their supernatural attributes.

The Legend

According to a legend, a powerful demon Bala conquered the kingdom of Heaven and became a tyrannical ruler of the universe. The demi-gods, however, opposed his rule and sought to destroy him. Under the pretext of choosing a boon, they requested Bala to be the sacrificial animal in a ritual ceremony. Once the demon was tied to the stake, the demi-gods killed him. His body was dismembered and the severed parts of his body were transformed into precious gem seeds.

Then followed a great tussle among the demi-gods and other celestial beings over the seeds. As a result, these got scattered. Some fell into rivers, some in oceans and others into forests and mountains. As they lay buried, they began to germinate into rubies, sapphires, cat's eyes, and an endless variety of other precious stones. On account

of their intrinsic merit, some of them imbibed the power of quelling obstacles accruing from the influence of demons, poisons, serpents and sickness whereas others were devoid of any quality.

Types Of Gems As Described In Puranas

Various types of gems figure in the Puranas (ancient Sanskrit texts) and each of them is associated with specific beliefs. Works on Indian chemistry proclaim nine varieties of gems: diamond, coral, pearl, emerald, cat's eye, cinnamon stone (gomedaka), ruby, sapphire and topaz. The Puranas also refer to lapis lazuli and crystal.

Modern gemologists believe that, except for the emerald, all these precious stones were mined in India. The known emerald mines of this country are of modern times. No evidence of ancient emerald mines has been found in India. It is probably that emeralds used in ancient jewelry were stones that found their way into India from ancient Egypt. In Egypt, emerald mines and working tools and other equipment dating to about 1650 BC have been found.

The science of gem preparation in ancient India was well developed in the early centuries of the Christian era (Puranic perioid). The diamond was found in different parts of the country and at least six colors of diamonds were known, each being associated with a particular deity: green with Vishnu (the Preserver), white with Varuna (god of Oceans), yellow with Indra (god of Heavens), brown with Agni (Fire god), blue with Yama (god of Death) and copper colored with the Maruts (Storm god).

A Diamond For Each Caste

The king could wear diamonds of any color, as he was the lord of all castes. Each caste, however, was recommended a specific color and improper use of colors in diamonds by the different castes was believed to be the most harmful. Thus, for a Brahmin (the priestly class) a diamond of pure white luster was recommended. For a Kshatriya (warrior class), a diamond of a reddish hue was considered auspicious, for a Vaisya (trading class) one with a greenish tint was appropriate and for the Sudra (working class) one, which had the luster of a well-polished sword, was believed to be suitable.

A spotless diamond was considered to be the abode of deities. A perfect diamond was considered to be the one that could float in water and had six elevated tips, eight equal sides and twelve sharp edges.

World's Greatest Diamonds

Some of the world's greatest diamonds have originated in India such as the Kohinoor, the Great Mogul and Orlov. The Kohinoor, which after changing hands many times, was purchased by Britain in 1849 and now adorns the crown of the Queen of England. Originally, it weighed 191 carats but when it was recut in 1852 at Garrards of London its weight was reduce to 108 carats. The Great Mogul found in 1650 weighed 280 carats. It was the largest diamond ever cut in India and its whereabouts are unknown. The Orlov, which had its origin in the mid-18th century Karnataka war, was stolen from an Indian temple where it formed one of the eyes of an idol. It weighed nearly 200 carats and was sold to an English naval captain. It was eventually bought by Russian Court and now adorns the Kremlin treasures.

Testing The Stones

There are references in ancient Indian texts about the preparation of imitation diamonds by the use of iron, topaz, gomedaka, lapis lazuli, crystal and different kinds of glasses. And that is perhaps why diamonds were tested by means of alkaline solutions and the emery wheel.

According to the Garuda Purana, to test whether a pearl is real or not, it should be placed in heated water mixed with some oil and salt, for one night. After removing it from the water, it should be rubbed with barley grains and then covered with a dry cloth. If it does not lose its luster then it is a real pearl. Methods for giving luster to a pearl are also described. The pearl should be placed in cavity of a fish, which is then smeared with clay and baked. The pearl should then be boiled in milk, then in water and finally in limewater. The pearl thus treated assumes an excellent luster.

Effect On Human Body

According to the traditional Indian belief, the human body is composed of the seven colors of the rainbow, associated with seven kinds of rays. Diseases enter the body when there is a deficiency or excess of any ray in our body. Each color is associated with a particular gem, which in turn is associated with a particular planet. According to astrologers, a gem is beneficial when worn in the phase of a particular planet as these stones also affect our health and destinies.

Besides, there are other important characteristics of gemstones in their medicinal use.
The ruby associated with the Sun is extremely hot and releases hot waves in the form of red cosmic rays. It should be worn only during the winter months. It cures ulcers, bone disorders, arthritis, blood diseases, anemia and general weakness.

The pearl is associated with the Moon, which in turn is associated with fertility and regeneration. Being cold, it releases cold waves capable of curing diseases arising out of hot rays - heat stroke, high blood pressure, boils and abscesses. It is particularly useful for uterine disorders.

The red coral is associated with Mars and is a very useful gem for every person. It rules over the excretory glands, kidney, urinary systems, sex organs and sweat glands. By assuring the proper clearing out of waste products from the blood and body, it keeps the body fit.

The emerald is associated with Mercury, the planet of nerves, intellect, memory, creative ability and mind. This gem has the power to cure all sorts of eye and ear troubles, forgetfulness, epilepsy, stammering, insanity and nervous disorders. Real emeralds can be determined by holding them for some times before the eyes. A fake stone will impart a hot or irritable sensation to the eyes. But a real emerald will soon make the eyes cool.

The blue sapphire is associated with Saturn and is believed to have miraculous and magical powers in healing all sorts of diseases of the brain and stomach. The very light blue sapphire is usually preferred for healing purposes. It cures diarrhea, dysentery, gastric ulcers, nervous disorders, heart troubles, paralysis, Parkinson's diseases, arthritis and insanity. But it is too cold and should be worn on the middle finger of the right hand along with a copper ring on the first finger of the left hand. The copper ring will protect the wearer from the bad effects of the blue sapphire. This stone strengthens concentration, precision and perfection in any activity. During the winter months the sapphire should be worn with a red coral otherwise, there is a possibility that one will have to suffer from severe cold, cough, bronchitis and fever.

The cat's eye associated with Ketu is an extremely hot gem and heals cancer, paralysis, acne and other skin diseases.

The yellow sapphire (topaz) is associated with Jupiter and is believed to have the miraculous power to bring prosperity and fortune. It cures rheumatism, arthritis, gout, sciatica, lumbago, spondylitis, impotency, frigidity and sterility. It is preferably used with one red coral.

The diamond is neither hot nor cold. It is associated with Venus and is believed to have no real power in healing any disease.

Today, gems have increasingly acquired a commercial character. And given the rich tradition our society is steeped in, gems will continue to be an important part of our religious and secular culture.

Healing Properties

Each gem in the mala was given certain attributes of healing properties, according to ancient lore, and the practice is still in vogue today. The ruby protects against poisonous substances and banishes any evil spirits that hover around. It also gives energy to the wearer and changes color if the wearer is in bad health.

The emerald is an antidote for all stomach complaints, stings and bites; it is soothing to eyes when mixed with saffron, and a protection against poisonous insects or reptiles. It was used in ancient times by mariners to prevent storms. Emeralds are said to pale if the wearer is faced with deception. As it is the stone of the Goddess of Love, it helps lovers in their problems. The coral is extremely popular as it is a stone that is said to cure diseases, help the memory and act as a powerful protection against the evil. That is perhaps why it is often used in rosaries and made into chains for little children.

Pearls give strength to the heart and are often used in Ayurvedic medicine. In India, pearls have always been a favorite ornament in royal courts.

Blue has always been the color of enlightenment and in Buddhism, the wearing of sapphire was said to increase devotion. In the West, bishops and cardinals also wore sapphires in ancient times. In spite of being held in sacred esteem, sapphires can also bring bad luck if worn by a person who does not have it as a birthstone.

The garnet is found in many colors though the best known is deep red, almost resembling a ruby. Garnets are often used to imitate precious stones, but have not been recorded as having any special properties of protection. On the other hand, the topaz is used for occult practices. It is used in the Middle East, for averting the evil, and is said to bring wealth and long life to the wearer. The topaz can be golden yellow in color and sometimes colorless. The cat's eye is usually brownish yellow. There is often a light line, which shines through, giving the idea of an eye from which it derives its name.

Many of these jewels are worn set in rings, mounted so that they touch the skin. The stone and its weight are decided according to the individual's astrological chart.

The nine jewels of the necklace are a combination of the different gems and perhaps were originally threaded together to ensure general well being. There is no doubt that the variety of color looks beautiful and it would be interesting if more research were done in the meaningfulness of the Navaratna, the nine jewels.

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