Every once in a while, Mother Earth fashions her own jewellery. From the hardest diamond to the softest amber, gems and gemstones are Nature’s colourful gifts, crafted patiently with centuries of rock and rain.
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These precious and semi-precious stones have been worn since humans first set eyes on them. Ancient Egyptians valued green gemstones in particular, and thought they brought luck to the person wearing them. In fact, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra loved one of the stones mentioned in our puzzle today – the peridot. It was called “the gem of the sun” because its beautiful green hue often had hints of golden yellow.
Historians now believe that Cleopatra’s legendary collection of emeralds were in fact peridots. According to the Italy-based Gemological Institute of Genoa website, this mix-up was a common mistake in ancient times due to the similarity of the stones. Regardless, peridots hold their own, and enjoy a pride of place as the national gemstone of Egypt, even today.
Another enchanting gem, amber, is different from stones like peridots and emeralds because it is not a mineral. Rather, it is a hardened resin from certain trees that has fossilised over time. That’s why you can often find fully intact creatures suspended in time within the translucent orange-yellow gem. From lizards and geckos to flies, ants, and bees, thousands of tiny insects and animals have been found preserved in amber.
But one of the more exciting discoveries involve a perfectly preserved feathered dinosaur tail from Myanmar that is about 99 million years old. The report of the discovery and related findings was published in the US-based journal Current Biology in 2016. It shared details of a 1.4-inch portion of a dinosaur tail, covered in delicate feathers that were described as chestnut brown with a pale underside – all preserved within a small orange universe.
It is clear that gems are not just pretty to look at. They hold worlds within them, of a different time and place that existed long before we did.
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