GemSelect Newsletter - Cleopatra's Jewels and Precious Love
With the month of February comes one of the biggest celebrations of romantic love; Valentine's Day. Therefore, it is appropriate to present a story of love. One of the greatest love stories known is that of Roman ruler, Mark Antony and Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII. Theirs is a true story that has been written by William Shakespeare and rewritten as a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were having a romance of their own at the time.
Legends of Cleopatra are full of descriptions of her beauty, charms and jewels. She was depicted on an ancient coin wearing an elaborate diadem and pearls around her neck. According to one story, she once swallowed a dissolved pearl to prove to Mark Antony that she could host the most expensive meal in history. Other tales refer to "Cleopatra's Mines", which were in Wadi Gamal. The very first known emerald mines were in Egypt, in Wadi Sikait in the Eastern Desert. This area was called "Mons Smaragdus" by the Romans, meaning "Emerald Mountain". Cleopatra was said to have loved emeralds and adorned herself with them. The Egyptian queen was also said to have presented emeralds carved in her image as gifts.
Peridot and Ptolemy Back to Top
Some believe that Cleopatra's emeralds were not emeralds, but were actually peridot gems. Peridot was mined from the volcanic island of Zabargad (St. John) by the ancient Egyptians and peridot gemstones have been confused for emerald in the past. Since there is little archaeological evidence of Cleopatra's jewels, it is difficult to judge her collection. Among the other materials mined in ancient Egypt were malachite, turquoise, carnelian, amethyst and, of course, gold.
Cleopatra's story is not one of an easy life of luxury; after her father's death, she was made queen along with her brother, Ptolemy, to whom she was married at the age of 17. However, her brother attempted to kill her, so she fled the palace and returned with an army. Cleopatra and Ptolemy's power struggle coincided with Julius Caesar's own struggle against Pompey, and Ptolemy's treatment of Caesar led him to side with Cleopatra, who became sole ruler when Ptolemy was killed in battle. Caesar was charmed by Cleopatra, who bore him a son, but the Roman senate grew fearful of Caesar's power and he was assassinated. Rather than give in to her grief, Cleopatra had her younger brother poisoned to ensure the place of her son in the palace.
Mark Antony and Opal Back to Top
The Roman Empire was divided into East and West, with Octavian ruling the West. Mark Antony was the leader of Eastern Rome and he sought a meeting with Cleopatra who captivated his heart. He presented her with beautiful gemstone jewelry. One particularly beautiful opal ring, however, proved beyond his powers of acquisition. The opal ring was owned by a Roman Senator called Marcus Nonius who refused a vast fortune for it. Mark Anthony responded to the refusal by demanding that Marcus either sell the ring or leave the vicinity! The opal must have been an astonishingly beautiful jewel, since Nonius chose to leave Rome, rather than let the opal go. Antony and Cleopatra lived happily for several years and had three children together. However, when they married, the Romans turned against Mark Antony.
Golden Diadem Back to Top
It seems that Antony and Cleopatra's love for each other ultimately led to their downfall. On learning falsely of Cleopatra's death, Mark Antony committed suicide by falling on his sword. Distraught at the sight of her lover's corpse, Cleopatra was said by some to have taken her own life by allowing a deadly snake to bite her. According to scholars, she either died of a fever from infected wounds or poisoned herself and fell into an eternal sleep. The historian, Plutarch, gives an account of Cleopatra "lying on a bed of gold, set out in all her royal ornaments" including a golden diadem. The tomb of Antony and Cleopatra has not yet been found. But if and when it is discovered, it could contain jewels and gold to rival those discovered by Howard Carter in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Cleopatra VII was one of the most powerful females in history and the love between her and Mark Antony was such that it has transcended time to be told of again and again.
Featured Gems: Peridot, Amethyst & Opal Back to Top
Amethyst, the February birthstone is loved by gem and jewelry enthusiasts all over the world for its color, hardness and affordability. Amethyst can be found as small gems in matched lots and also as large single stones. The most valued amethyst is a deep purple color, but many people like the pale lilac colors too. Not only is amethyst a wonderful gemstone in its own right, but it is also an important stone for crystal healers. The origin of amethyst is related in a Greek myth, which tells the story of Diana being turned to crystal by the god of intoxication. In fact, for many years, amethyst was believed to be a stone of sobriety.
Mark Antony may not have acquired the beautiful opal gemstone ring that he wanted to buy from Marcus Nonius, but you can feel free to choose from our selection of beautiful opal gems available, including the opal cabochon on the right. This stunning opal shows an incredible play of color; the characteristic that opal is prized for. This is caused by the way that light is diffracted from tiny spheres of silica gel inside the gemstone. Opals come from various regions, but Australia, where opal is the national gemstone, is the most famous source. As well as different sources, there are many different colors varieties of opal, which include black opal, boulder opal, chocolate opal and fire opal. Therefore, there is an opal for everybody.
Peridot was mined from an island to the east of Egypt during the reign of Cleopatra VII and was known by the ancient Romans as "evening emerald" because of the way the color glows even in dim light. An interesting fact about the color of peridot is that it is not caused by trace impurities, but is a result of its composition. This means that peridot is only ever found in green, but can vary from yellow-green to brownish-green. The most desirable peridot gems are a vivid green color. Peridot makes great jewelry because of its beautiful color, good hardness and durability. It is a versatile gem that is affordable in large sizes, matched sets and interesting shapes.
Gem & Jewelry News for February 2016 Back to Top
The world's largest blue star sapphire was unearthed from a Sri Lankan gem mine in Ratnapura. The record-breaking cabochon weighs 1,404 carats and the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes it is worth at least $300 million. The star sapphire exhibits a six-rayed star and has been named "The Star of Adam". It is not yet clear as to where the phenomenal gemstone is destined to go, or what the owner paid for the stone.
A 133.4-carat diamond has been discovered at Lucapa's Lulo Diamond Project in Angola. This recent find is the largest from the site and beats the previous record of 131.4 carats, which was found in 2012. Along with the 133.4-carat diamond were three other sizeable pieces weighing 29.2 carats and 11.1 carats of D color.
Stolen gemstone jewelry worth an estimated $1.5 million has been returned to its owner. The jewelry, including gemstone rings and a diamond tennis bracelet had been left in the locked trunk of a car in California by the owner who was planning to sell it. However, his car was broken into and the valuable jewelry was stolen. An honest motorcycle shop owner later found the jewelry outside his shop and handed it in to the Sheriff's Department.
Gem & Jewelry Events for February 2016 Back to Top
Customer Questions Back to Top
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- First Published: March-07-2016
- Last Updated: February-24-2017
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