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Ch. 8: Mystical Properties of Gems

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earliest didactic poem, it is said, since classic times, has given
a history of precious stones and their mystic powers as they
were accepted in his time; this poem became the "text-book
on mineralogy for five centuries." The author derived his
theories chiefly from his predecessors, especially Pliny, the
Pseudo-Orpheus, and Solinus. The " Lapidarium " treats of
the supernatural properties of stones, their color, and some
other physical characteristics. Some extracts from this long
poem will illustrate the prevailing theories of that period
respecting the nature and powers of precious stones, which
the discoveries of modern science have proved to be not only
erroneous, but absurd.
The virtues and natural qualities of some of them are thus
expressed : —
The Diamond. Hardness invincible which naught can tame ;
Untouched by steel, unconquered by the flame.
Agate.                  Now regal shapes, now gods its face adorn ;
Such the famed Agate by King Pyrrhus worn ;
Alectoria.             It gifts the pleader with persuasive art,
To move the court and touch the hearer's heart.
Jasper.                 Of seventeen species can the Jasper boast;
Of differing colors, in itself a host.
Sapphire.              Fit only for the hands of kings to wear :
With purest azure shines the Sapphire rare.
Chalcedony.          Unlike the jasper, of this precious stone
Three hues alone are unto merchants known.
Emerald.             Of all green things which bounteous earth supplies,
Nothing in greenness with the Emerald vies.
Sardonyx.            The Sard and Onyx in one name unite,
And from their union spring three colors bright.
Onyx.                   The name of Onyx, as grammarians teach,
Comes from the usage of the Grecian speech.
Sard.                   Cheapest of gems, it may no share of fame
For any virtue save its beauty claim.
Chrysolite.            The golden.Chrysolite a fiery blaze
Mixed with the hues of ocean's green displays.
Beryl.                   Cut with six facets shines the Beryl bright,
Else a pale dulness clouds its native light.
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