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Chalcedony: the Mother of Crystal

Thursday, 10 December 2009

chalcedonyChalcedony is a collective name used to denote many well known varieties of cryptocrystalline quartz gemstones, therefore the name «the mother of crystal». Chalcedony includes carnelian, sard, bloodstone, onyx, sardonyx, chrysoprase, agate, flint, chert and jasper just to name a few of the better known varieties.

Because of its abundance, durability, and beauty, chalcedony was, except for sticks, animal skins, bones, and plain rocks, the earliest raw material used by humankind. The earliest recorded use of chalcedony was for projectile points, knives, tools, and containers such as cups and bowls. It is believed that the gemstone was named after the ancient port city of Chalcedon, on the Asia Minor side of the Bosporus. Chalcedony is mentioned in the New Testament (Revelations 21:19) as one of the twelve gemstones set in the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem. According to the legend, foundations of the city walls are decorated with various gemstones: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, hyacinth, and amethyst. One of the earliest writers tied the Apostles with the symbolism of the twelve gems of Jerusalem, and chalcedony represented the Apostle St. Andrew.

Chalcedony has a waxy luster and appears in a great variety of colors including blue, white, buff, tan, green, red, grey, black, yellow or brown. Different colored varieties of chalcedony have individual names including agate (banded), bloodstone (green with red spots), chalcedony (blue to brownish blue), chrysoprase (apple green), carnelian (orange to red), flint (dull grey to black), jasper (spotted red, yellow, brown or green) and sard (light to dark brown). The agate is most varied and popular of all chalcedonies. It is extremely abundant and creates unusual and stunning examples. Most agate is ugly in a natural state. Specimens must be trimmed and polished to bring out their full beauty. Most specimens sold to collectors have already been treated, in the form of tumbled stones or polished slabs.

Many past cultures chose chalcedonies as the medium from which to craft their amulets. Created by temple priests, amulets were worn for any variety of reason, such as to secure public favor, ensure victories, keep a lover faithful, keep one safe on a journey, or protect the wearer from political upheaval or war. Greek seafarers in the third or fourth century AD wore chalcedony and 'carbuncle' (probably garnet) amulets to avoid drowning. The Romans prized chalcedony as seals, and astrologers of the Middle Ages wore engraved signet rings of chalcedony as amulets. During the Renaissance, chalcedony was used as a magic amulet to promote health and safety.

Chalcedonies are used to create figurines, fine gifts, vases, dishes, tiles, furniture inlays, various interior decoration accents, as the reasonable price of the gems promotes their wide application.

Some of chalcedony varieties are used in the manufacture of tiles for bathrooms, saunas and luxury baths. It is believed that chalcedony-based tiles help the improve air conditioning in the room. Also, stained glass and lampshades are made of another chalcedony variety, onyx, using the Tiffany technique. Also a favored architectural facing material, chalcedony has been extensively used in the interiors of many of Europe's architectural «jewels.» One such jewel is the Usimbardi Chapel, built in Florence, Italy (therefore the name «florentine mosaic»).

In Europe, the oldest agate deposits were near Idar-Oberstien, Germany, where agate geodes of unique habit were found. Unfortunately, that deposit has long since been worked out.

Chalcedony varieties are extensively used in litotherapy. For instance, white chalcedony improves vision, and sard, when placed on the wounds and ulcers, promotes their healing. In addition, sard promotes fertility, but one should distinguish between «female» (bright) and «male» (dark) gemstones. Sardonyx aides speedy bone union and stops bleeding. Onyx enhances memory, and, when set in silver, helps with heart aches and insomnia. Banded onyx is believed to have miraculous painkilling properties - it was applied to the areas of inflammation, tumors and on the belly in case of abdominal cramps. Agate treats diseases of the throat and teeth, gout and cramps.

Virtually any chalcedony variety is an excellent remedy for nervous exhaustion and stress, but wearing chalcedony jewelry around the clock is not recommended, as its lasting effect on the nervous system may give rise to unreasonable fears and anxiety.  

Numerous magical properties are attributed to chalcedony. The gem is believed to possess feminine character and stimulate the lust for life, love and happiness. Therefore, various amulets designed to banish sadness and bring joy have been made with chalcedony. To this day, lucky charms and talismans incorporating chalcedony are produced, which should shoo away evil spirits and protect from nightmares.

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