Emeralds: A Part of Ancient Religious and Cultural History of The World

red diamond 3d rendering
Red Diamond Emerald

Since ancient times, the Emerald has caught the interest and fascination of humans. Like many other gifts of nature found in lush green shades, real emeralds are also found in stunning green color. There are other green gems such as peridot and tourmaline but none are as famous, beautiful and rightfully expensive as emeralds. In this article, we will try to shed some light on the historical significance of the stone. Let’s start with its name origin and some ancient history.   

Emerald’s name origin

Historians are agreed on the fact that the word ‘Emerald’ is the distorted form of a Greek word ‘smaragdus’ which means ‘green’.

Trace back of emerald in the history

The first mining of emerald was reported in the ancient Egypt dating back to 300 BC. In Egypt, emerald was revered as a precious gemstone.  Cleopatra, the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt considered the manifestation of beauty, was fond of emerald and it is used as part of many of her royal adornments.

History also suggests that Roman were also fond of this magnificent gemstone. According to the writings of famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, in ancient Rome people stared into emerald to relieve tediousness and exhaustion.  

In the following discussion, we will try to look into the importance of emerald in different cultural and religious symbolism.

Emerald: Equally loved by ancient gods

In many religious beliefs, offering emerald to the spiritual deity results in different rewards for the people. For instance, Hindus were the belief that people who offer emerald to the god Krishna become high in heaven and god rewards these generous offerings with the knowledge of soul and eternity.

There is another historical trace of people offering emeralds to their gods.  A Spanish historian from the 16th century AD, who had extensively researched on the north of South America, also hinted about the emerald offering of the natives to their gods. According to him, people used to burn emeralds and gold before the depictions of the Moon and Sun which are considered the highest divinities.

Emerald used as a rewarding gift to gods implies that not only humans but gods were also fond of this gemstone.

 

Emerald: A stone embedded in the breastplate of Aaron

The breastplate of Aaron, which is discussed in the Old Testament, had different gemstones embedded in it. Scholars are still debating the type of those gemstones because revision to the original text has changed the names and categorization of the stones. Apart from that, the linguistic changes through the course of time have also altered the names of different gemstones.

It has been cited that a greenstone was used in the breastplate of Aaron. It could be the real green emerald, green feldspar or any other green stone but historical indications are stronger towards the use of emerald. Emerald began to be mined near the ancient site of Nubia, Egypt before the era in which the breastplate got made.

The Peruvian goddess made of emerald

In the 15th century, when Spanish kingdom was roaring around the South America, people of the city of Manta in present-day Peru used to worship a goddess named Umina. The goddess was made of an emerald of the size of an ostrich egg. It was displayed to the public only on feast days by the priest.

According to their dogmatic belief, followers can worship the goddess by only bringing her daughters. Small size emeralds were called the daughters of the Umina. When the city was captured and conquered by the Spaniards, they found plenty of emeralds there however they failed to trace the emerald goddess Umina.

Spaniards also waste many of these precious gemstones in order to determine their originality. They smashed emeralds on anvil because they were of the thought that original emerald is the hardest gemstones and it can withstand this smashing.

Emerald Symbolism embedded in depiction of mystic and mysterious cities

There are many tales and folklore in India which talks about the mysterious cities and forts with walls, facets and entire temples made of gold and other precious elements. There are paintings which depict these cities and their features. According to the pictorial depictions of those wealthy cities, leaves of plants and trees have dripping emeralds and rubies.  

From the above discussion, it is quite clear that emerald has always been an important part of different historical religious and cultural reference spread all across the world.

 

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