In ancient China, jade was a gemstone thought to protect people, so rings and pendants were made from it. In fact, it is still worn today as a lucky piece of jewelry. In Old Babylon and Ancient Egypt, their amulets took shape as carved animals – they believed flies, beetles, and frogs held special powers. In the European Middle Ages, the human hand carved with fingers in certain positions was meant to keep evil away from children. It was common for medieval mothers to hang many amulets on their babies to keep them safe from all kinds of harm.
Like jade, there are countless stones believed to have unusual powers. Many of these can be found listed in old lapidaries – for example, in old northern Europe, it was believed that toadstone could be used to detect poisons; the ancient Greeks felt that red coral could defend against magic spells; the ancient Mongolians believed that Dzi beads would protect them from the Evil Eye; and an old Romanesque tradition holds that green jasper heals fevers and banishes ghosts!
- Photo by Valerie Power/GIA, courtesy Mary Mathews