GemSelect August 2014 Newsletter - Gemstone Implants and Charms
Early Gemstone Dental Implants Back to Top
There are many who believe in the healing powers of gemstones and precious metals. Throughout history, both Eastern and Western cultures have worn and used gemstones not only for their beauty, but because of certain properties or attributes that were connected with the jewels. The use of gemstones date back to the earliest civilizations and in some cultures, gemstones were even implanted into the body, rather than worn.
Archaeological discoveries have revealed that the Mayans inlaid teeth with gemstones such as jadeite, pyrite, hematite, turquoise, quartz, opal, serpentine and cinnabar. Were these early fillings, or did they have some sort of religious or cultural purpose?
It is said that the Mayans believed that if they adorned their teeth, it would enhance their voice and thus facilitate communication with God. The Mayans also performed early dental implants, using animal teeth, shells and teeth from other humans. They used devices like drills, made from hard materials such as obsidian, which is volcanic glass. Obsidian fractures with very sharp edges, making it a perfect surgeon's tool. The Mayans were both skilled dentists and believers in the metaphysical powers of gemstones.
The Mayans' curious dentistry seems to be resurfacing in modern times. A professional piercer recreated the Mayan mouth by having opal inlay put into his lower and upper canine dental implants. This is a little different to the usual hip hop tooth jewellery.
Gemstone Amulets for the Dead and Living Back to Top
The ancient Egyptians and Chinese people used gemstone amulets during the burial of their dead. The mummies of ancient Egypt were surrounded by riches and jewels, to help the dead on their journey into the next world. The Chinese used jade in the orifices of corpses, since they believed that it would preserve the deceased. The Shan people of Burma traditionally put an offering on the tongue of the deceased for the boatman who takes the spirit across the river of death. Shan people of normal status would have coins placed on their tongues and those of high status would have offerings of rubies or other gemstones, gold or silver placed inside their mouths.
A lot of Thai people believe in the mysterious powers of amulets that have been blessed by Buddhist monks, and some devotees have these amulets inserted under the skin of their arms for protection. The nearby Shan people of Burma used to insert charms under the skin to protect them in battles. Nowadays, it is still common for South East Asian people to be given temple tattoos that are believed to have protective powers.
Malaysian Charms Back to Top
In Malaysia, needles made from gold or other precious metals and even gemstones are implanted into the body. These are known as "susuk" and are believed to protect the wearer from harm. Nowadays, this is forbidden by Islam. There is a well-known Malaysian horror film called "Susuk" that was made in 2008 about the use of such charms.
Susuk charms take various forms such as gold needles, diamonds, pearls and other coloured gemstones, plant ingredients, animal body parts and even elephant sperm. Apparently, susuk used to only be used by royals and nobles. The susuk can be swallowed, inserted into the body or be magically conjured into the body during a special ceremony.
Women have these charms implanted in the belief that the charms will enhance their beauty, youth and sexual allure. Men have susuk in the belief that they will gain charisma and gain supernatural powers, such as invulnerability. The charms are also believed to improve the wearer's career or business and prevent accidents and harm. Before the charms are inserted, the wearer is usually given a ritual flower bath. After the ritual of insertion, the wearer is usually given a number of restrictions, such as not being allowed to scratch their faces, eat bamboo shoots, chicken or bananas. Curiously, they are also told not to walk under clothes lines or stairs for several days following the insertion. Susuk that were inserted to protect the wearer from physical harm should be removed before death, otherwise it is thought that they will cause the wearer terrible suffering. It's too bad if the witch doctor dies before the susuk is removed. Also, it is said that when susuk inserted for youth and beauty are removed, the wearer's face will instantly revert to its natural age and level of ugliness.
Pearling Back to Top
An English merchant called Ralph Fitch, who travelled to Northern Thailand in the late 1500s, was amazed to note that Thai men inserted bells made from precious metal into the skin of their penises. This practice was also observed by a Flemish diamond trader called Jaque de Coutre, who travelled to South-East Asia around a similar time. He commented that the practice was supposed to discourage homosexuality, though how is anyone's guess. Such penis implants still survive in modern day Thailand, though rather than being bells made of precious metal and used by the upper class, prison inmates are the ones implanting "pearls" into their penises, which are usually made from smooth pieces of glass from Coke bottles and inserted with sharpened toothbrushes. This may have stemmed from the Yakuza practice of inserting one pearl under the skin of the penis for each year spent behind bars. Years ago, real pearl gemstones were used, which is why the practice is known as "pearling".
Featured Gems - Peridot, Opal and Aquamarine Back to Top
Peridot is the designated birthstone for August. It has a vivid lime-green or olive-green colour that remains bright under artificial light. This quality caused peridot to be called "evening emerald" by the Romans, who used it as a gemstone. In fact, in the past, peridot has been mistaken for emerald. Peridot has a long history as a jewellery gemstone. It was used by the ancient Egyptians, who called it "the gem of the sun". Peridot is an excellent choice of gemstone for jewellery because it is extremely versatile. It can be cut in various styles, possesses good hardness, is usually untreated and most gems have no visible inclusions. Peridot has been found in meteorites, but the most favoured peridot gemstones come from Pakistan. Recently, China has become one of the main producers of peridot.
Opal is the national gemstone of Australia due to the fact that Australia is the largest producer of opal gemstones. However, this multicoloured opal is from Ethiopia. Ethiopian opals are relatively new to the market, but are a variety definitely worth considering. They have a range of base colours, including white, blue, orange, grey and brown. The play of colour of Ethiopian opals gives them a magical quality that attracts the eye and increases their value. As with other opal varieties, Ethiopian opal has a high water content, therefore, opal gemstones must be properly cared for to prevent damage. Opals make wonderful earrings, brooches and pendants, but are not recommended for everyday-wear rings, due to their delicate nature.
Aquamarine belongs to the same mineral group as emerald; beryl. The name "aquamarine" comes from a Latin phrase meaning "seawater", and looking at this watery-hued gem, you can see why. Indeed, aquamarine was considered by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be a sailor's gemstone and legends tell of aquamarine being the treasured possession of mermaids, who protected sailors who carried it. Since aquamarine is a beryl gemstone, it has the same high level of hardness as emerald, making it ideal for any type of jewellery. Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and is also the 19th wedding anniversary gem. It is thought by crystal healers to promote a happy marriage and to sharpen the mind.
Gem News Back to Top
The largest lab-grown colourless diamond has been created by a company called Pure Grown. The large synthetic gemstone weighs 3 carats and has an SI clarity. The company expects to sell the lab-created gemstone for a predicted $21,000.
Sapphire not only makes beautiful gemstones, but since it is is a very hard material (with a Mohs hardness score of 9), it is being used in the production of the latest smartphone display screens, notably, the iPhone 6, which is rumoured to use a sapphire crystal display. However, in order for a display screen to enjoy the full durability of sapphire, it would need to be made with pure sapphire, which would result in a rather expensive product. There is some speculation that the iPhone 6 screen is a glass and sapphire blend.
Gem & Jewellery Events for August 2014 Back to Top
Customer Questions Back to Top
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- First Published: August-04-2014
- Last Updated: March-08-2016
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