How To Say “Royal” With Jewelry

For quite some time now I’ve been gathering stories.

Stories related to gems.

Stories that give gems their meanings 

That’s partially me trying to justify this long time obsession fascination with gemstones.

On the other hand,  that’s also my favorite way to understand history – through stories. As a kid, I would struggle to have all those critical dates memorized. Instead, all those little stories placed as a side note in history books, those were my favorite parts.

But talking about stories from the past, there’s one gemstone that’s currently quite affordable to most people but that was quite the opposite a few centuries ago. In those days it was so rare that all royal houses of Europe ended up having them in their treasure vaults.

I’m talking about a gem with quite a unique color. A color that, these days, only 3% of men and women say it’s their favorite color.

I’m talking about Amethysts and their purple to violet color. A color that can range from light to a profoundly saturated color. Some specimens exhibit a reddish purple, while others exhibit some blue flashes mixed with the purple base tone. 

So tell me, do you know amethyst meaning? And even more important, are you an amethyst fan?

If you are, then the following stories will surely make you love it even more.

PURPLE, THE COLOR OF POWER



I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.



Alice Walker, The Color Purple

……

The Old Testament makes one of the first associations between purple and the highest power. In it, Moses is instructed by God on the colors to use in the temple fabrics and priestly vestments.

EXODUS 39: 1With violet, purple and scarlet yarn were woven the service cloths for use in the sanctuary, as well as the sacred vestments for Aaron, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

The color in which God was to be honored became in time the color of the sovereigns. In those days, the purple pigment used to color fabrics was the most expensive of them all, and its production a highly well-guarded secret. So secret that at a certain point only those sitting in the throne of Constantinople could command it’s production. In that city we currently call Istanbul, they would boil a particular sea snail to extract the pigment, and it would take tens of thousands of those snails to dye a single garment.

purple dyed fabric with their corresponding sea snail; An exhibit of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna

Later, in the Roman Empire, only the emperor, his wife, and his heir could use tunics entirely dyed in purple. Senators were allowed to use a small purple edge in their tunics.

Used for centuries by the elites, it was the color used by rulers. Purple was the color of power and royalty. During the Byzantine Empire (between 330 and1453), a son or daughter, born after the father had become emperor was said to have been born in the purple.

ROYAL COLOR TILL TODAY



I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.



Georgia O’Keeffe

In the past, amethysts were among the rarest of the gems! Apart from having the color of power, they were so rarely found that, at a certain point in time, they were as expensive as rubies or emeralds. It was only around the second half of the 18th century, that the Portuguese discovered large deposits in Brazil and started importing them into the old continent. That made them more accessible, and in our days, amethyst prices are quite affordable even for exceptional specimens.

Since it was so rare and expensive until the beginning of the 19th century, and accessible only to the elites, it comes as no surprise that most of the Royal Houses have amethysts in their jewel collections. Since rubies, sapphires and diamonds are currently more associated to high rankings and status, those amethysts don’t come out that much. But they’re still outthere.

Don’t you believe me? Have a look at the following examples.

The Napoleonic Amethysts are probably the most seen of them all. They came from Napoleon’s first wife, the Empress Joséphine. The amethyst parure is currently used by the Swedish royals. In the 70’s one of the necklaces was rearranged into a tiara making the set more spectacular.

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The British royal house is not without its amethysts also. Although HM Queen Elizabeth II is allegedly not a fan of the stone, tickets for her coronation were printed in a shade of purple, and she does wear from time to time an amethyst brooch belonging to the Kent Amethysts demi-parure ( a set that used to belong to Queen Victoria’s mother).

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One of Queen Mary’s amethyst necklace is no longer part of HM’s royal treasure; it was sold at auction. A few years latter, Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor, used it at a gala at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Last but not least, let me mention The Duchess of Windsor’s Cartier Bib Necklace. An iconic piece of jewelry made for the Duchess of Windsor by Cartier in the late ’40s. You can see it in the poster below.  I was lucky enough to see it up close in one of the Cartier’s exhibitions. The mixing of faceted amethysts, diamonds, and cabochon turquoises is a show stopper.

The Duchess of Windsor’s Cartier Bib Necklace – from “Cartier 1899-1949, the Journey of a Style exhibition at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, 2007. “

Now it’s your turn, and I wanna hear your stories. 

Use the comments space below and let me know of any story that you, or someone in your family, might have with amethysts. Can’t wait to hear it.

Until next time,

Cover: Photo by William Krause on Unsplash