Rubies-Spphrs-art - 2/18/10
"Rubies and Sapphires" by Lady Rutilia Fausta.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was first published in 2009 in "The Tydes", the newsletter of the Barony of Lyondemere in the Kingdom of Caid.
Rubies and Sapphires
by Lady Rutilia Fausta
In a survey of period gemstones, two of the most popular are rubies and sapphires. These bring to mind brilliant blues and vibrant reds, but in reality, these two stones are actually the same mineral: corundum. Corundum is a very hard stone, with a hardness just below that of diamond. Traditionally, ruby is any red form of the mineral, and sapphire is any color other than red. Ruby's name comes from ruber, Latin for red, and sapphire comes from Greek, sappheiros (σάπφειρος) which simply means blue. Sapphires were oft-mentioned in the bible: "His arms are rounded gold, set with jewels. His body is ivory work, encrusted with sapphires."- The song of Solomon
Up until the 13th century, the sapphire was the most valuable of all the gemstones. In the 14th century it was overtaken in price by the ruby- though balas-rubies were more common and less expensive. Many stones thought to be rubies during our time period were not actually corundum: balas-rubies are actually a purplish form of another mineral called spinel. Its bluish tint was thought to represent that it was mined from veins of sapphire- however most sapphires and rubies actually come from gravel deposits and are washed or dug out, and not 'mined'. As with most precious stones until the latter part of our period (14-1500's) rubies and sapphires were generally not faceted, instead left in their natural forms or gently rounded into cabochon form.
Sapphires and rubies were worn not only for their beauty, but for the protective properties they were thought to have.
"Worn on the body, sapphires were thought to protect the body and keep its parts whole and unbroken, whoever wears it cannot be cheated or overcome by fear, it can release captives from prison, and inclined God favorably towards the prayers of its wearer. It arrests internal heat and excessive sweating, and is good for ulcers, the eyes and headaches, cures stammering, and the man who wears it will be entirely chaste." (Liber Lapidium, written by the Bishop of Rennes towards the end of the 11th century.)
Strangely enough, no powers were assigned to the ruby by the Bishop. It is recorded that Maria of Hungary, the wife of King Charles II of Naples, left in her will in 1323, "A sapphire for the eyes, mounted in gold".
A sapphire in center, with rubies outside. 1200-1300
Rubies and Sapphires historically came from where they are still mined today: Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
"In a mountain two miles from the sea-shore and the rubies are found at its foot: and when a merchant desires to find these jewels, he must first speak to the King and buy a patch two feet on every side of the said earth, and it costs him five ducats a patch, and then the ground is being dug, a man belonging to the King stands by, and if any jewel is found above ten carat weight the King wants it for himself, and leaves him all the rest free of charge. And close by the said mountain is a very great river, in which are found a great quantity of garnets, sapphires, jacinths, topazes and other sorts of gems."(Venetian Friar, Francisco Suriano1485-1524)
Crown of Princess Blanche, approx. 1370
Marco Polo wrote of Ceylon, "In this island are found the noble and fine rubies, which are not found anywhere else in the world, and here too are born the sapphires and topazes and amethysts and many other fine stones".
Many of the most famous rubies are actually of the spinel type: the Black Prince's Ruby and the Timur Ruby are both balas-rubies. Oddly enough, today it is far easier to obtain a genuine ruby than a balas-ruby. Marco Polo also wrote of the balas-ruby found in Afghanistan, "In this province, are born balases, which are very fair precious stones and of great value."
The most valued colors of sapphires during the Middle Ages was a more sky-blue than we are familiar with today: this is perhaps because so many of our modern stones have been treated for the most brilliant color. The finest colored rubies were described as, "goodly pomegranate seeds" and balas-rubies were to be "a pomegranate that is not well-ripened".
So, in the context of pre-Renaissance jewelry, Sapphire and its brother Ruby are not only beautiful and easy to find, but quite period- and since Sapphire was considered to be the jewel of nobility, go thou and purchase these most noble of jewels, for we are all noble in our hearts.
The Black Prince's Ruby, traceable to 1366 AD, is actually a red spinel.
The Timur Ruby, another spinel of over 350 carats(the size of an egg), owned by Tamerlane in 1399
Byzantine earrings, gold with sapphires, 500-700 AD
Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Kelly. <jen at zenofjen.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.