Portal logo
196
GEMS.
The balais is often found in large crystals; and if that is true which we read in the history of the Grecian empire in the dark ages, there were seen some of enor­mous dimensions ; and one of the Cantacuzeni, em­peror of Constantinople, had given ten balais rubies, weighing each eight ounces, to the Venetians, in the year 1343.
Pliny says that, amongst burning stones, the chalce­dony and lichnite alone were found large enough to permit of their being made into cups; and in describing the lichnite he thus expresses himself : "Of the same species is the lichnite, so called because it shines brightly by lamp-light. It is procured in the neigh­bourhood of Ortosia, and all over Caria and its vicinity; but the most beautiful comes from India, and it is said by some to be a carbuncle of minor brightness. When warmed in the sun, or rubbed between the fingers, it attracts straws."
From this description, King concludes that the lichnite is an Oriental ruby ; and in confirmation of his opinion, he repeats a passage of Solinus, who says the lichnite is thus called because it shines much by lamp-light, is transparent, very bright, attracts straws when warmed in the sun, or rubbed ; is not easily cut, and is of no use for seals, as it repels wax as if bitten by it : velut quodatn animalis morsu.
However, it seems to me that this description, and also that of Pliny, agree in general more with the balais than with the corundum.
It is true that the balais and spinel can be very