Concentration is a Gem II

con 1


Gems: the value of hardness—something to bear in mind.


Also, having light inside

There are people gems

Cat gems and dog gems:

It’s the light inside


One of my favorite aunts loved star sapphires—and only now I learn how they are cut from their crystal shape to show the star.

How I love this illustration, even though I have never been much of a fan of the science of chatoyancy, believing—as with charm—that it’s ineluctable.

con 2

A sapphire is a drop of Amrita, a drink of the gods that conferred immortality: the gods allowed it to solidify so that mortals could get a glimpse of nirvana.

con 3

The Book of Exodus describes the 12 stones of the High Priest’s breastplate.


The first row contained sard, topaz, and carbuncle

The second row. Emerald, sapphire, diamond

The 3rd, ligure, agate, amethyst

The 4th, beryl, onyx and jasper


Despite copious research (so Mr. Casaubon) from the 14th century until now, ligure has never been identified.

I loved my old blue metal mineral specimens box

I loved that time when we went geode hunting in the river near my mother’s cousins’ farm on the Mississippi.  The joy of that expedition, splashing in the water, in the shallow parts of the rapids, turning over all the round stones and saving the ones which were oddly light to smash later: I still have one.

I love that tourmalines are magnetic and that Ben Franklin experimented with this largely new world gem.

Stones are wonderfully more viable than we are—so long-living, so concentrated, so totally there.

I wonder, when we die and are buried in our favorite jewelry, how the gems glow in our coffins.

Sebald’s love of Sir Thomas Browne’s Urn Burial, and Browne’s catalog of curiosities in the urn, with its blue opal and an ape of agate: “Time itself grows old,” Sebald writes, but not these gems.


Gems are more concentrated than superballs, cats, magnets or pressure cookers.

But death concentrates the mind.

Concentration is a gem but what would a stone say?


Stones don’t talk

How many errors they avoid!


Lao Tzu:

“Do not shine like the precious gem,

But be as dull as a common stone.”


I like that the Hindus believe that sapphires render the planet Saturn favorable to the wearer, an important consideration from the astrological point of view since Saturn’s influence is generally unfavorable.  Hindus distinguish between four classes of sapphires, corresponding to the four castes: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vasiyas, and Sudras (respectively light blue, reddish blue, yellowish blue, and dark blue).

And I like that among the Mohammedans, six of the seven heavens are made of precious substances:


The 1st is of emerald

The 2nd is of white silver

The 3rd is of large white pearls

The 4th of rubies

The 5th of red gold

The 6th of sapphire

The 7th, the highest heaven, is made of shining light


I don’t especially like that in Arabic gem lore, perforated pearls have a different name than the unperforated ones (“virgins,” not too imaginatively).

I like the way Parsifal springs to life with the legend that says that when Satan fell from Heaven, a single emerald dropped from his crown: from this stone was fashioned the Holy Grail, from which Christ drank at the Last Supper.

I loved in the Hirshhorn Richard Long’s “Norfolk Flint Circle,” and his observation that “stones let themselves be worked on.”

con 4

I like knowing about the most Russian of gems: the Alexandrite, discovered in the time of Czar Alexander II and named after him: it has the remarkable capacity for appearing green in daylight and red in artificial light.  Red and green were the Imperial colors of Russia, and its rise to fame was immediate—duplicity, shades of Putin.

Early in the history of books, many Oneirocritica (“dream books”) were compiled and one of the most famous is by Artemidorous, whose career flourished in the second century AD: he believed that dreams of rings and precious stones to be of favorable significance only in the dreams of women (indicating marriages, healthy children, and wealth) (women, he notes, are passionately fond of ornaments).  For men, on the other hand, to dream of jewels was an ill omen, probably because it foreshadowed the necessity of buying some.

Further to precious stones and dreams: the 8th-century Arab writer Achametis stated that if you are dreaming of gems you are really dreaming of journeys (agates, amber), or of happiness (beryls, aquamarines, emeralds, sapphires, onyx), or of bad news (bloodstones, jet, cat’s-eyes, moonstones, tourmalines).

In the 18th century in France and England acrostic jewelry became very popular.  Rings, bracelets and brooches were set with gems whose first letters, when combined, formed a motto or expressed a sentiment: talking gems.







Free and useful advice, much of which dates back to Paracelsus:

For tired or weak eyes, wear a topaz

For food-borne illnesses, wear a diamond

For biliousness, a ruby

For pink-eye, a sapphire

For kidney stones, jade


(Even Voltaire, that skeptic, believed in jade, giving credit to a beautiful jade bracelet given to him by a Mademoiselle Paulet, for the relief he experienced from kidney-stone agonies.)

Pliny the Elder stated that the emerald is the only stone that delights the eye without fatiguing it.

Gems have never fatigued me.

The gloating joy of glow—clouds have that—but gems have such compact glory, such focus—


Gems are concentrated, but my mind isn’t. – BKE