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Ch. 6: Gemstones in Ornaments

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Tavernier describes the women of Tonquin as being extravagantly fond of adorning their persons with necklaces made of
coral and yellow amber ; those worn by the Hindoo princes
were mines of costly gems. A magnificent specimen, captured
by the Sultan Mahmoud, composed of large pearls, rubies, and
other costly materials, was valued at half a million of dollars.
The story of Serena, wife of Stilicho, a prominent Roman of
the fifth century, affords a tragical illustration of the fascination
which precious stones have over some minds, and the swift
retribution of a sacrilegious act under the Roman laws. A
necklace of costly gems placed as a sacred offering upon the
statue of Vesta was coveted by this high-born lady, who finally
appropriated the tempting jewel, for which act of impiety she
was condemned by the Emperor Honorius to suffer death by
strangling, notwithstanding her exalted rank. The most remarkable necklace of antiquity was that of Harmonia, who
received it, together with the famous peplum, as a wedding gift
on the occasion of the marriage of this goddess to Cadmus.
It proved a fatal jewel to every mortal who was so unfortunate
as to possess it. Polynices, who inherited the necklace, gave it
to Eriphyle as an inducement to use her influence with
Amphiaraus, her husband, to join the expedition against Thebes.
He yielded to her entreaties and perished in the enterprise,
according to his own prediction : Alcmason, their son, killed his
mother and possessed himself of the ornament, but he came to
a tragical end, and, after changing owners several times, to all
of whom it proved disastrous, it was dedicated to the gods in
the Temple at Delphi. The description of this necklace is given
by Nonnus, a poet of the sixth century, who says it was made
in the form of a serpent, with two heads bearing a golden eagle
with four wings ; one pinion was of orange jasper, another of
white moonstone, a third was made of pearl, and the fourth
Ch. 6: Gemstones in Ornaments Page of 401 Ch. 6: Gemstones in Ornaments
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