We’ve all heard that diamonds symbolize true love, but what are the symbolic meanings of other popular gemstones? From ancient times to today, gems of every hue have been imbued with significance and special powers by cultures around the world. Here are the legends associated with some of the world’s most treasured jewels:
Blue has long been considered the color of fidelity, and sapphires were once the preferred gem for engagement rings (before diamonds claimed that honor in the early 20th century).
Legends have said that placing an emerald under your tongue gives you the ability to foresee the future (but we do not recommend that!), and that emerald protects against evil spells and can cure disease.
Ancient Hindus believed that those who offered rubies to the god Krishna would be emperors in a future life. People in India and Burma have also believed that rubies offered safety and peace, and medieval Europeans thought that these gems guaranteed health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love.
Because of its color the ancient Greeks associated amethyst with the wine god Bacchus, and believed that the gem could prevent drunkenness. Amethyst has also been thought to keep the wearer clear-headed and quick-witted.
The Egyptians thought that peridot protected against nightmares and brought the wearer confidence, good luck and health. In fact, it’s believed that some of Cleopatra’s famous emeralds were actually peridots.
Aquamarine is believed to provide courage, mental clarity and good health. Because of its association with water, aquamarine has been said to keep sailors safe at sea.
In ancient China, pearls were believed to protect against fire, and in Europe they were associated with chastity and purity. Pearls retain that association with innocence today.
Garnet has long been associated with clergy and nobility. In ancient Egypt the pharaohs wore red garnet necklaces, and in ancient Rome rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax on important documents.
This gem is also known as “healing quartz,” because legend has it that citrine promotes vitality and energy in whomever wears it. And according to the Chinese feng shui philosophy, citrine creates wealth and abundance.
Because opals can exhibit so many different colors within a single stone, it has long been thought to possess supernatural powers. In ancient Rome, this gem symbolized love and hope. The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have long considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity, and truth. Once, it was thought to have the power to preserve the life and color of blond hair.
Folk wisdom says that zircon has the power to relieve pain, protect travelers and prevent nightmares. In the Middle Ages, this gem was thought to induce sound sleep, drive away evil spirits, and promote riches, honor, and wisdom.
Topaz symbolizes love and fidelity, and is said to bestow strength and intelligence on the person who wears it, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
From ancient times to today people have ascribed special powers to turquoise. Native American tribes of the Southwest wore turquoise as an amulet thought to offer protection, and in ancient Persia (and modern day Iran) some believe that wearing turquoise can ward off the “evil eye” (other people’s ill will).