1.16.2010

The Secret Life of Sapphire

silver wild horse charm jewelry necklaceFree Spirit, Beth Hemmila (Hint Jewelry):
sapphire, sterling silver chain, and fine silver wild horse charm

Sapphires! Simply dreamy! Just saying it conjures up a cascade of pictures in my head for sapphire is one of those words I associate with color memories such as intoxicating eyes or an ocean vista. Unfortunately, I didn't find Victoria Finlay's chapter on sapphires in Jewels: A Secret History as captivating as I had imagined. Anyone else feel ho-hum? Or did I just have unreasonable expectations?

Nevertheless, Finlay is still able to surprise me with interesting tidbits about gemstones and history on her trip to Sri Lanka to uncover the story behind a sapphire her father gave her mother over thirty years ago. Like many of her travel logs, her trip to Sri Lanka is filled with interesting local color and folklore. Once she made the connection that the Sixth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor is based on real life stories from fourteenth century Muslims traveling to Serendib (the Arab name for Sri Lanka and the root word from which serendipity was born) I was hooked.

One of my favorite sapphire stories from Jewels: A Secret History was the Greek legend that the world's first ring was set with a sapphire and worn by the Titan Prometheus. Just saying the name Prometheus makes me cringe. This mythological character had it hard, first going out of his way to steal fire from Zeus for all of humankind and then punished for his transgression by being bound to a rock for all eternity where a gigantic eagle would eat his liver every day. Ouch!

Luckily for Prometheus, the gods put killing the eagle on Hercules to do list and of course like a rock star this Greek hero was able to slay the mighty beast and get Zeus to free the Titan prisoner. One condition for release was that Prometheus had to wear a ring forged by his chains and the rock he was bound to as a constant reminder to stay on the straight and narrow. The rock fragment used in the ring was sapphire, a stone resembling the color of the hottest part of any flame.

Finlay's gift for writing is that she knows how to save the best for last, weaving her way through the streets and rivers of Sri Lanka, dropping a little breadcrumb trail that quietly leads you to Adam's Peak (or Sri Pada) -- a 7,200 foot sapphire, holy mountain where she ties it all back to a powerful myth of a man bound to a rock, human suffering, and redemption.

For more interesting stories about gems from Victoria Finlay's Jewels: A Secret History, check out my blog series The Secret Life of Gems.

2 comments:

  1. Her sapphire journey sounded very frustrating - as she said, she felt like she had "dupe" written on her forehead. Enjoyed most the short section about star sapphires, a stone that seems mystical to me. Now that I understand how the "star" is formed, it seems even more mystical!

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  2. I agree. I wasn't nearly as satisfied with the sapphire chapter as I could have been. I don't think it was my favorite chapter. I am still not done, but I almost want to go back and re-read some parts. Thanks for sharing your inspiration! Enjoy the day! Erin

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