Cultural Insights into Gemstones
Acquiring knowledge of the vast cultural and historical background of gemstones make us appreciate them even more.
Beyond their physical beauty, gemstones are well worth reading about. As their exquisiteness has enchanted people for millennia, admiring gemstones is a way of reconnecting with the entirety of human history and culture through an appreciation that is shared with our ancestors. Valuing and wearing gemstones is, therefore, an act of remembrance and meditation on the universal values of raw beauty, refinement and a general awe felt over the creations of nature. Knowing their history equips us with humbleness and a recognition of our place in human history – a reminder that we are often in dire need of in our time. Gemstones, in short, are some of the most fundamental links between nature, history and culture.
As the pieces of Augustine Jewels are greatly inspired by the cultural heritage of gemstones, we have decided to embark on an intellectual journey of discovering more about them and sharing the process with you.
That something so perfect, so pure can be found in nature – albeit with quite a great degree of luck, determination and effort – has made gemstones straightforward candidates for taking on mythical roles. There are countless tales telling of the fortune of simple men chancing upon such miracles of nature and gods turning into gemstones. Likewise, gemstones have served as symbols of universal human experiences, so that the stories in which they appear are recognisable as parables presenting moral truths.
Today, the symbolism of gemmology is fading quite
naturally. This is linked to a shifting societal perception of nature as a
given, as something which can be captured by exact science, something which has
got some sort of utilitarian function, something that is important to talk
about only insofar as it is in danger. This perception is not necessarily
mistaken or reproachable. But it might be limited: it is interesting to think
about how taking the natural world around us for granted, even when we still
know shockingly little about it, affects our mentality.
Nurturing an interest in natural phenomena (a
quintessentially English habit, remarks Jeremy Cooper) such as flowers,
gemstones or even birds is a revolt against a worldview that may unduly
demystify human experience.
Aquamarine Ring, £595, Arctic Collection
It might be thought that the symbolism of gemstones is merely a relic of the distant past; that not much happened since the ancients.
This, however, is not the case.
Gemstones appear and play symbolically heavy roles from Middle Eastern folk tales (think of Ali Baba) to romantic adventure novels (such as D’Artagnan’s diamond in The Three Musketeers by Dumas) to modern fiction (see Daisy’s pearl necklace in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby).
Gemstones can also indicate things less abstract: among others, they stand for wedding anniversaries: opal, for example, commemorates the fourteenth such occasion in a couple’s life. Gemstones are rendered to months, too, yielding the concept of "birthstones".
Less well-known is the fact that gemstones can stand for letters – up until the fin de siècle, “emotional jewellery’, communicating a message with the help of ordered gems, was highly fashionable. George IV, for instance, died with a gemstone necklace around his neck, spelling the word 'dearest'.
Applying simple symbolism like this is fundamental human behaviour. Gemstones provide a sophisticated way of capturing this continuity.
Among others, our Portofino collection, hand designed and handmade in our bespoke jewellery in London - inspired by the vibrancy and joie de vivre of this picturesque Italian seaside village - celebrates the versatility of exquisite natural gemstones by encasing various radiant gemstones in pure gold:
Yellow Gold Emerald Spiral Pendant, £195, Portofino Collection