The Historical Heirloom Sapphires

The mesmerizing sapphire gem is alluring the hearts of the human race since the times immemorial to us. It is so popular not just because of its lustrous beauty and adorable available hues, but also due to the said mystical powers and healing properties associated with it.

Did you know that sapphire has so many facts and legends associated with it which are still intact? It is also very interesting to know that each of the ancient sapphire possessed by some Royal person or a famous person has a story attached with it. Some of the famous kings, queens or important persons in the history of the mankind have a sapphire associated with them. Let us read about few very interesting sapphire stories:

1) King Solomon:

King Solomon and Queen of Sheba

The king Solomon (1000 B.C.) possessed a magical ring known as the ‘Seal of Solomon’, according to the Medieval Jewish, Islamic and Christian legends. It is believed that the ring had an inscribed sapphire which gave the king the power to speak to the animals and have command over the demons. Some people believe and imagine that it was a magical six pointed star sapphire; in history it is mentioned that it was inscribed with a hexagram or ‘Star of David’. It is also said that the King Solomon wanted to seduce the Queen of Sheba and for the purpose, he used the magic of sapphires from the country of Sri Lanka.

2) Pope Innocent III:

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III (start of 13th century) was the Pope from 1198 till 1216, till his death. He is fondly remembered for increasing and extending the power and the prestige of the papacy. He had given very special four rings that had precious gemstones to the King of England, Richard the Lionhearted (d. 1119).

According to Kuntz:

“With the rings, the pope sent a letter from St. Peter’s in Rome, dated May 28, 1198, in which he wrote that the four stones were symbolical.  The verdant hue of the emerald signified how we should believe; the celestial purity of the sapphire, how we should hope;, the warm color of the garnet, how we should love; and the clear transparency of the topaz, how we should act.”

Richard_I_of_England

Pope Innocent III also gifted the gemstone rings to Richard’s successor King John of England. The rings had a single gemstone in each and they were emerald, sapphire, ruby and/or opal. The rings are no more, but the letter which accompanied the rings is still there.

3) Helen of Troy:

Helen_Menelaus_Louvre

According to the believed legend, Helen of Troy (12th century B.C.) possessed a large star sapphire which is said to hold the key to her desirability. As per Apollodorus, she at least had 30 suitable men who wanted to marry her, but she married King Menelaus of Sparta. It is interesting to know that she was abducted by Paris, which led to the Trojan War.

4) Charlemagne:

Emperor_Charlemagne

The founding father of Germany and France and the very first ruler of the Western European Empire after fall of Roman Empire, Charlemagne (747-814 A.D.) was a hard core religious man. For him and his contemporaries, sapphire gemstones symbolized heaven and the promise of eternal salvation.

5) Shah Jahan:

Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal

The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) had a deep meaning in his name. According to the Persian language, this name means ‘The Ruler of the World’. He is world-wide known for building the tomb Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. This monument is amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. Like the other Mughal rulers, he too was an avid gemstone collector. He is also known for commissioning the famous Peacock Throne as described by Tavernier (1676), when he travelled to India. According to him, the throne was so named because of the two majestic peacocks that stood behind it. Their beautiful tails were spread and were studded with precious gemstones, including the blue sapphires. The most famous diamond Koh-I-Noor was placed here as well in shape of a bed. The throne was later destroyed by the Persians. It is worth knowing that the ancient Persians considered that blue sapphires were chips from the pedestal that supported the earth and it is due to their reflection that the sky gets its blue color.

6) Rudolf II:

The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) is not considered a great leader, but he is said to be a great painter and lapidary. His court was filled with famous alchemists, lapidaries and the artists. He believed in mysticism and assembled a league of physicians and astrologers who guided him on the healing and occult powers of the gemstones. He had a large and extensive collection of the gemstones and exotica which included the teeth of mermaid, phoenix feathers, unicorn horns and nails from Noah’s Ark. This collection was maintained by famous physician and mineralogist, Anselmus Boetius de Boodt. He authored one of the most influential mineralogy ever found texts in history, ‘Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia’.

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II Imperial Crown

Rudolf II commissioned many fantastic items, and the Imperial Crown of Austria was one of them. The crown was executed by Jan Vermeyen in 1602. It is topped by a large blue sapphire, which represents the heaven.

7) Catherine the Great:

Catherine II and Nicholas II

Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) came to power after a bloodless coup deposed her husband, the eccentric Peter III. It was under her rule that the Russian empire grew by almost 200,000 square miles. She was too fond of the gemstones and she decorated her room with the precious colored gems. An admirer gave her a majestic 337 carat blue sapphire. It was among the Roman off jewels until it was sold by Nicholas II during World War I to finance a hospital. This blue sapphire of Catherine the Great was later the part of Hary Winston’s ‘Court of Jewels’. These days it is owned by anonymous individual.

8) Ivan the Terrible:

Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) is popular in the history as an ardent lover of the sapphire gemstone. He had a great love for these blue gems and collected them fondly. Sir Jerome Horsey states

“The saphier I greatlie delight in; yt preserves and increaseth courage, joies the hart, pleasinge to all the vital senses, precious and verie soveraigne for the eyes, clears the sight, takes awaye bloudshott and strengthens the mussels and strings there of.”

It means that I am delighted with the sapphires which increase and preserve the courage, are pleasing to all the human senses, give joy to the heart, are precious to the eyes, they clear the sight, take away the bloodshot and strengthen the strings of the muscles.

There are many stories which are nothing more than rumors about the sudden desmise of the king. Some of them say that he was poisoned by mercury.

9) Josephine:

Josephine wife of Napolean Bonaparte

The wife of Napolean Bonaparte, Josephine (1763-1814) was a widow and mistress of many influential political people in France until he met Napolean. Their love affair started and they got married. After their marriage, he took many things from Italians due to which they gave him the title ‘The Great Thief’. He loved his wife too much and he often presented her with expensive pieces of jewelry. The lady was fond of the jewels and one amongst her very favourites was the Parure of Queen Marie Antoinette. It was a collection of seven pieces of jewelry, which had almost 29 blue colored sapphire and many were larger than 20 carat each.

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