30 JULY 1921, Page 9


TT is recorded in the Book of Enoch that one of the angels who took unto themselves wives of the daughters of men first taught mankind the use- of precious stones. Enoch is, I believe, not regarded as a canonical authority, and his statements must be accepted with caution ; but it is at least highly probable that precious or semi-precious stones were first used in the Near East in the form of signets made of calccdony, lapis-lazuli, agate, or serpentine marble. Some much harder substance must have been employed to cut the figures on these signets, and this was almost certainly corundum (sapphire or ruby), and not the diamond, as some have supposed.

- The signet has always played a great part in the East. I need only refer to Pharaoh taking off his ring and putting it on Joseph's hand as a sign of authority (Gen. xm., 42). The signet of Sennacherib may he seen in the British Museum. It is finely cut on an amazon-stone, a very hard substance, and shows what progress the gem-engravers' art had made even in those remote times. There is in the same collection a signet of a King Darius, and it may be the identical seal which closed the den where Daniel spent a night that can hardly have been an agreeable one, even to a prophet.

There is a legend that Jove, upon loosing Prometheus from the bonds to which he had been condemned to eternity, forced him, as a penance, to wear for ever on his finger a link of the chain set with a fragment of the Caucasian rock on which he had writhed. Whether or not this is the origin of the finger-ring, it is certain that the Greeks wore rings at an early date. Homer appears to have known nothing of signet-rings or indeed of precious stones, except amber. His jewellery is, I think, confined to eat-rings, necklaces, and hair-ornaments of gold, the fine-chasing of which he evidently both understood and appreciated. Perhaps precious stones were not known to the Greeks until trade with Asia was extensively developed. The engraved signet led to the representation on gems of scenes from daily life and worship, images of the gods and goddesses and portraits of living persons. As luxury increased the materials used became more and more costly, and we find Roman intaglios cut on sapphires, emeralds, and even diamonds. It is strange how the enthusiasm for fine intaglios seems to a great extent to have disappeared from this country. Once the Marlborough, Beverley, Townley, Payne-Knight, and other cabinets of gems were famous, but now collecting seems to have passed into other channels. Few people take any interest in these works of art, although our National Collection contains many magnificent specimens tastefully shown. Intaglios may be studied in Paris, Berlin, Naples, and in Petrograd also, if the Bolsheviks in their Yahoo-like hatred of all that is beautiful have not laid their baleful hands on what used to he one of the finest museums in Europe. Intaglios are worth study. I would invite anyone who is unacquainted with gems and who loves fine workmanship to examine the head of Julius Caesar by Dioscorides in the British Museum. It may be a portrait from life, and to my thinking gives a more striking impression of the great dictator than any bust that I have seen.

Some of the most exquisite intaglios are Italian Renais- sance work. The best of these seem to yield in no respect to the finest antiques. As an instance I may cite. the Marlborough " Sirius " on a superb Oriental garnet. I do not know to whom that treasure now belongs, but perhaps the human hand has never fashioned anything more wonderful.

As wealth increased in Rome the love of splendid jewel- lery became almost as great a craze as it is in the year 1921. It is remarkable how little Roman jewellery has survived excepting intaglios and gold-work. Precious stones, apart from pearls, are not very perishable, but so far as I know no great diamond, ruby, or emerald has come down to us from antiquity. Stones may be recut, reset, or repolished. We may still be wearing gems which once adorned Ninon de l'Enclos, Lucrezia Borgia, or that great lover of jewellery Mary Stuart, but where is the emerald spy-glass of Nero, and what became of the great rubies which shone on the neck of Faustina or in the diadem of Theodora, ?

The ancients knew little or nothing of the art of cutting stones in facets, and till the middle of the seventeenth century full justice was not done to the diamond. It has been said that Cardinal Mazarin discovered the brilliant. Before about 1650 the diamond had always been cut as a rose or table. When Mazarin revived the diamond-cutting industry in Paris he took twelve fine stones from the Regalia and had. them cut as brilliants. These stones were long known as the " Mazarins," but except one they have disappeared. Of recent years an even more elaborate form of cutting has sometimes been adopted. The ordinary brilliant has properly 33 facets on its crown or upper part and 25 on its pavilion or under surface. The newer cutting has 40 facets on each. It is a question of taste which shows off the diamond to greater advantage.

Nothing is more remarkable than the variety of colours in the same precious stone, and I believe chemistry throws no light on these remarkable variations. Take the diamond. Yellow diamonds are common, and when the colour is a. bright primrose it can be very beautiful. Brown, puce, and greenish stones are not rare, and occasionally a red stone is unearthed. Some years ago I saw a diamond in the window of a Burlington Arcade jeweller which approached the colour of a ruby. The rarest shade is blue, the most famous stone of that colour being the "Hope," which was probably a fragment of a much larger stone stolen from the French Regalia in 1792. It is said to be in America. For those who are interested in such matters there is a fine series of coloured diamonds in the Townshend Collection at the South Kensington Museum, and a finer one still in _ the Schatzkammer at Vienna.

It is interesting to note that diamonds have been dis- covered in meteorites, so that the inhabitants of other worlds, if such there be, may possess diamonds which out- shine the " Cullinan," or the relatively small but splendid " Regent " in the Louvre. Perhaps no precious stone includes so wide a range of colours as the spine!, a compound of alumina and magnesia. This effective stone is, strangely enough, little worn or even known. I have seen spinels of almost every conceivable colour, from white to indigo blue. There is an aurora-red spinet which is unlike any other precious stone and has a strange beauty of its own. The sapphire sometimes exhibits twin colours, and I have one before me which is half blue and half yellow. Again, the sapphire may be of almost every colour—the amethystine sapphire being particularly beautiful. One might linger on indefinitely writing about these wonderful things, of the strange legends and stories con- nected with them, of their former use in medicine, of the magical powers ascribed to them. Extant works on precious stones would, if collected, form a considerable library. I have one in Latin, dated 1502, and dedicated to that ornament of the Sacred College, Cesare Borgia. Of modern books there are few that are accurate. By far the most complete work known to me is by Dr. Max Batter, of the University of Marburg. It is very well illustrated, and is compiled with that voluminous and almost uncanny thoroughness which we connect with the German race. Professor Kunz has written a good book on the subject, and there is an excellent little handbook by Professor A. H. Church, one of a series published by the South Kensington Museum. EVELYN GRANT-DUFF.