Sunday, 30 December 2007

Jewellery and Wine - Pearls, Jade, Topaz and Crystals


According to Pliny the Elder the Romans used to drink pearls with their wine. No one is quite sure whether they dissolved their pearls in sour wine (vinegar) or used crushed pearls and sprinkled the powder into the wine.

The most famous incident of pearls being drunk with wine is Cleopatra's wager with Mark Anthony. She wagered that she could drink the value of a whole province – whether this was to seduce Anthony or to impress him with her wealth no one knows (it was probably both). When he took her up on her wager Cleopatra tossed one of her splendid pearl earrings into the wine, it magically dissolved and she drank it. But for the protests of the onlookers, including Mark Antony's, she would have followed with the pair, which, like the first, was worth 100,000 sesterces.


In a Tibetan wedding ceremony it is customary to drink wine from jade cups. Jade has been used in Asia since Neolithic times and the ancient Chinese thought that was solidified Dragon semen – hence its association with marriage. Jade combines the 5 virtues of chastity, justice, courage, modesty and wisdom and is sacred to the Goddess Kwan Yin and to Buddha.


Steeping Topaz in wine was used to cure dimness of vision and was strongly recommended by St. Hildegard. The stone would be placed in wine and left there for 3 days and 3 nights. When retiring to sleep, the patient should rub his eyes with the moistened topaz, so that this moisture lightly touched the eyeball. After the stone had been removed, the wine could be used for 5 days.

In mysticism the Topaz is said to dispel anger and nightmares, to warn its wearer of poisons and to protect him from sudden death. It is reputed to make men handsome and women fertile but it's probably not a good idea to rely on its magical powers as it was also claimed that you could put your hand in boiling water after a Topaz had been thrown in it and remain unharmed!

Agate and Crystal

Wine was recognised long ago to revive the nerve centres after an animal bite. Many different recipes with different ingredients were developed to enhance these effects and Snakestone (Banded Agate) was reputed to be one of the most effective. If Crystal is mixed with a dry wine it is supposed to be a cure for dysentery.

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