#11 - How Long Have Gems Been In Existence?

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2018 at 8:01 pm by Stephanie

So I have been wondering just how long gems have been in existence.  There are some factors in determining this: who in history wrote of gems and who was able to document gems from back in time.

First of all over many thousands of years, many civilizations have come and gone.  One of the most preserved civilizations was the Egyptians.  With their ability to mummify bodies and the climate we are able to see a true representation of objects from that time.

Some of these objects, like necklaces and hair pins date back to the Egyptian Pharaohs in 4000 B.C.  The Egyptians used amethyst, malachite, emeralds, red jasper, lapis, carnelian, turquoise and topaz.

Of the many stones I like the story of the lapis mines.  Lapis was mined in Afghanistan where the mines were in the mountains at 9000 feet above sea level.  It was then carried back to Egypt where queen Cleopatra used crushed lapis for eye shadow.

Fast forward to the year 50 A.D. to Pliny the elder of Roman times.  Pliny wrote one of the first known books on natural history.  He lived from 23 A.D. to 79 A.D. and died during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. 

He wrote 37 volumes on natural history, the 36th and 37th volumes are about minerals.  Pliny is quoted many times on gems and minerals.

I find it very interesting when I appraise a gemstone for a client and I tell them that the stone has been treated in one way or another.  The clients almost always say the stone is 75 years old how can it be treated?  I read in Pliny’s work of various treatments dating back to the time of Christ.  A lot of treatments are from heat that can bring clear white crystals to various colors of red, orange and blue.  The same methods are used today.

Written by Daniel J. LaLonde

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