The History of Gemstone Jewellery

For all you Jewellery enthusiasts out there, we often get requests about gemstones, for example: what’s its natural colour? Where they originate from? Where were they mined?
These questions and many more got us thinking, our customers really like to know their Jewellery and more importantly their Gemstones. As you may already know here at Gemondo we like to offer our customers more, our blog is here to educated and inspire. Let’s start with the very beginning the History of Gemstone Jewellery. We hope you enjoy.
Modern day jewellery is seen as an extension of ourselves. Jewellery today can be used to show status, have practical uses, promote a belief or of course just to match your shoes.
The Jewellery world today has an item for every individual whether they’re aware of it or not. However the history of jewellery and in particular gemstone jewellery wasn’t all to do with style and glamour, like today.

Examples of Historic Jewellery

Examples of Historic Jewellery


Since the earliest traces of man, jewellery was there together with clothes and tools. In fact the first traces of jewellery were usually the mixture of the two.
Jewellery was there from the very start and just to help understand how long ago jewellery has actually been around. It is believed jewellery was created before a spoken ‘word’ or a written language!

Of course gemstone jewellery came slightly later than the first traces of man, although when it did, it came in a big way.
Within the old corridors of history. Gemstones have had a vast amount of different meanings and beliefs still do today. For example early Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians thought that all gemstones had different healing properties. The colour of illness was what distinguished which gemstone should be used. For example green stones were associated with eyes; whereas red stones were usually linked with blood problems.
More strangely were the methods used when the illness had been diagnosed. Treatment methods included: wearing the stone, holding within the mouth, placing on the wound, swallowing as a powder or drinking the gemstone with wine.
On of the earliest written evidences of gemstones being used for medical treatment came from Pliny. A Roman writer of the first century who wrote about his own experiences in treating ‘patients’. There are records from there into the distant 12th century for medical treatments using gemstones. Within the 12th century it was A.D. Hildegard who wrote a book on remedies many using the illustrious gemstones.
Later on when transportation and trading became accustomed, gemstones became a popular form of currency because of its rarity. It was now commonly known as a sign of wealth and from there Jewellery making really took off.
Roughly 5000 years ago Jewellery making propped up in all parts of the world. Egypt, Italy, China, South and Central America all started their own takes on how the precious materials/stones should be crafted.
Once mouldings were in place Jewellery become a preferred symbol in social and religious ranks. For example during the Renaissance Italy, sculptors took to training as goldsmith as the whole process had reached a status of fine art and well respected within the Vatican.

Cleopatra wearing gemstones

Cleopatra wearing gemstones


Skip to the early 20th century and the Jewellery world had become what we see today.
Due to industrialisation, Jewellery became accessible to the vast majority of the world and now Jewellery has a significant role in everyday life. Examples include: symbols of affection, wedding rituals, fashion, status, and to be part of a religious belief to name a few.
Throughout history the supply and demand of gemstones and the metal elements of jewellery have distinguished what the price should be. Gold and platinum is worth more than other metals like Silver because of its mining costs and rarity.
The gemstone equivalent would be Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies, and of course Diamonds. All of which tend to be very expensive and popular with royalty in history.
An example of royalty and their attachment with gemstones would be the great Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen who was obsessed with Emeralds. A mine under her rule near the Red Sea was the earliest noted emerald mine on earth of its kind and still is a huge source of Emeralds in the region. Many slaves lost their lives working on the mines just to satisfy her lust for the rare gemstone.

Since discovered it would be fair to say Diamonds are the most sought after gemstone in the world. The most famous of its kind being the Cullinan diamond.
The Cullinan Diamond is the largest discovered diamond of time, found in South Africa situated
40 kilometres east of Pretoria, Gauteng Province. Named after the owner of the mine Sir Thomas Cullinan, the Cullinan Diamond (or Great Star of Africa) weighs 621.35g or at 3,106.75 carats. The stone was presented to Kind Edward VII on his birthday.

Example of Cullinan Diamond 9 Pieces before & after cut

Example of Cullinan Diamond 9 Pieces before & after cut

Where he then ordered the diamond to be cut into three large parts by Asscher Brother of Amsterdam, and again cut further into 9 stones with 100 smaller pieces left (each stone is flawless and of the highest quality). All these stones form part of the British Crown Jewels and a recent estimate of all the pieces totalled £200 million+. To the left, the 9 larger pieces are shown – before and after cut.

Sapphires have also had an interesting role in history. Historically because of the blue, sapphires symbolised divine favour and spirituality. Kings through history had sapphires studded into their crowns to represent their leadership; being divine, wise and spiritual. However the most notable use of sapphires in a spiritual sense would be one of the most significant stories in the Bible.

Example of a Sapphire stone

Example of a Sapphire stone

The story of the Ten Commandments is a tale whereby Moses has spoken to God and is used as a messenger of God. He appears from the mountains with two tablets of ‘sapphire’ with Ten Commandments inscribed on them; believe to be inscribed with God’s own finger. The Commandments are still used today as the moral foundation of Christianity and Judaism.

Since their discovery, rubies have traditionally been admired in Asian countries.
Known as the “king of gems” because of their popularity with royalty, ruby is in fact the rarest gemstone. To add, it’s also the scarcest gemstone because its size when found is generally less than all the others.
In the earliest record of the stone. Rubies were used as a main form of trading (currency), 200BC China. Due to its colour China have always claimed the stone as their own and still do today. Interestingly many lay a ruby beneath their home or structure, to ‘secure’ good fortune.

Ancient sword Encrusted with Rubies

Ancient sword Encrusted with Rubies


As mentioned before because of its colour rubies were a popular form of medicine. Used to treat blood related illnesses. Also according to legend, ancient warriors use to insert rubies under their skin to bring valour before battles. Like many of the other gemstones, it was trendy to decorate your armour and weapons with rubies (as shown below).
The journey of gemstones has been compelling. With so many traditions and gemstones to choose from, we can only apologise for scratching the surface with this article. We will be writing more pieces on the history of individual gemstones and will welcome any insight our wonderful Gemondo customers have. Until then thank you for reading the Gemondo Jewellery blog and an insight into the History of Gemstone jewellery.

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