Precious Gem Stones in Ancient Egyptian Culture

Egypt had very productive emerald mines and jewels were among the principal objects introduced to Egypt from Arabia and India, so the Egyptian jewelers were very expert.

Jewels were among the principal objects introduced into Egypt from Arabia and India. The mines of their own desert did, indeed, supply emeralds, and these were worked as early, at least, as the reign of Amunoth III, or 1425 years B.C., but many other stones must have come from India.

In ancient Egypt, when a case was brought up for trial, it was customary for the archjudge to put a gold chain round his neck, to which was attached a jewelled figure of Thmei, or truth. Jewels and gold were amongst the ornaments of the rich, consisting of earrings, armlets, bracelets, anklets, finger-rings, chains, plates for wearing on the breast, etc. Of such bijouterie there are a considerable number of specimens in the British Museum, as there are also examples from Kouyunjik (Nineveh), of about 700 years B.C.; with necklaces and ear-rings from Babylon, of somewhat later date. A bracelet is inscribed with the name of Namrut (Nimrod), dating 500 years B.C.

The Egyptian and Assyrian jewellers were very expert. They could cut the hardest stones by some method unknown to us, and engrave and polish them.

In the days of Solomon, Palmyra the Superb, which owed its splendour to the opulence and public spirit of its merchants, was the emporium for gems and gold and luxuries of every kind.

The chief fame and historical interest of this city of the desert, are derived from the genius and heroism of Zenobia, whose dominions extended from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, but who fixed her residence at Palmyra in the third century. Her wealth was enormous, and in imitation of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, she affected great splendour in her style of living and attire, and drank her wine out of cups of gold, richly carved and adorned with gems. She was conquered and taken prisoner by the Emperor Aurelian, and the Queen of the East was conducted in triumph through Rome with all the costly spoils taken from her, as an Egyptian queen, Arsinoe, once before had appeared in the triumphal procession of the dictator Caesar. Zenobia walked in the procession before her own sumptuous chariot, attired in her diadem and royal robes blazing with jewels, her eyes fixed on the ground, and her delicate form drooping under the weight of her golden fetters, which were so heavy that two slaves were obliged to assist in supporting them on either side.


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