Looking at the beautiful and flashy jewelry of the Ottoman Empire, it is inevitable to think about the deeper significance that pervades the simple outer shell of the many pins, rings and headpieces. In Ottoman culture, the jewelry that is fitted with precious stones and gems were used to indicate one’s position and power. However, it is also said that the sultans wore these gems and stones because they believed in the specific powers that they had. The jewelry worn during this time provides deeper insight into the way the Ottoman sultans thought and reflected on their philosophies. The rings and pins from this era are more than just jewelry – they help us tell a story of the magnificent culture of the Ottoman Empire.
Where does this attraction to jewelry come from? During the 16th century the importance placed on jewelry grew to an overwhelming state. This fascination with jewelry came hand in hand with the expansion of Ottoman territory and the plundering of precious gems and jewels from newly conquered lands. Stones from all over Europe found their way into the hands of jewelers in the Ottoman palace, and it is said that at one point the sultan had 90 jewelers working for him in order to produce the flashiest and most flamboyant pieces.
The Ottomans were all about naturalism in their jewelry and costumes. Now, this does not mean that they were not flashy and dashing with colors and textures. It simply means that they valued the original shape and characteristics of the gems and stones they used. Unlike the European jewelers of the time, Ottoman jewelers gave prominence to the nature of the stone rather than insisting on perfect symmetry. Emerald, ruby, turquoise, diamond, pearl, coral, jade and agate were among the many precious stones used in the making of these pieces. And most importantly, they valued the unique and specific powers of every stone they wore, which were mostly associated with healing.
These diverse stones allowed for a colorful array of jewelry as well as supplying the Ottomans with diverse alternative medicine. Here is a look at the most popular stones used during the Ottoman era and their meanings and powers today.
Emerald: As known by many, emerald is the sacred stone of the goddess Venus. This greenish-black stone is thought to preserve love and has long been the symbol of hope. Some consider the emerald the stone of prophecy, though generally this stone is used by those trying to sooth and calm a troubled mind. This stone is thought to bring the wearer reason and wisdom, which was considered a common characteristic of the Ottoman sultans. Gifting this precious stone has a different meaning, however.
Gift an emerald to your lover so they will stay faithful – which might have been why the wives of sultans were often given this stone. It acts as a bridge between two people and vibrates with love. The emerald is believed to repair broken hearts, heal heart diseases and treat eye illnesses.
Ruby: The ruby is thought to be the most powerful gem in the universe and can be associated with many astral signs. The gem brings peace and contentment to the owner, and to sleep with a ruby under one’s pillow may chase away bad dreams.
A ruby ring should be worn on the left hand to receive life force and ensure protection. This stone symbolizes vitality and royalty, and the ruby is a symbol of friendship and love when given as a gift. The ruby is said to aid in blood flow and circulation, as well as in the cleansing and removal of a blood infection.
Diamond: The diamond is the hardest and most valued gemstone of all. This stone is a symbol of innocence and constancy, and is prized as the crown jewel. Today diamonds are used as engagement rings, but during the time of the Ottoman Empire, sultans would wear rings and necklaces with a set stone in the middle and diamonds surrounding it.
This is because the diamond does not have a specific power and only increases the power of the stones it is paired with. It is said that the diamond will block the flow of energy if the wearer has negative thoughts or feelings.
Pearl: The pearl is the oldest known mineral used as a gem and was considered the most valuable for centuries. What differentiates the pearl from other precious stones is the fact that it is composed of organic matter derived from oysters. It is the astral stone for the signs Gemini and Cancer, and astrologers have linked it to the moon; hence, why the pearl is known as the “teardrop of the moon” in some cultures.
Over time, it has become the symbol of purity and innocence, making it a staple to bridal gowns and the favorite jewelry of the bride to be. The pearl promotes prosperity and success, and encloses the wearer with calmness aiding in spiritual transformation. It helps with stomach and digestion problems, and helps sooth emotional stress.
Coral: Commonly referred to as the “garden of the sea,” coral was formerly believed to be a plant because of its natural shape. However, it is actually the accumulated skeletal masses of polyps that are living animals. This stone is believed to prevent misfortune, and dreaming about coral is thought to foretell the recovery from an illness.
This stone aids in meditation, as it is also associated with harmony of the heart. Additionally, when worn as a necklace, coral is supposed to offer protection from skin diseases. In general, the stone helps to combat depression and lethargy.
Jade: This stone brings together the energies of love, healing, money and protection to the wearer, making it the most preferred stone. Jade is known to attract love and affection to the wearer, and it symbolizes successful love or marriage when carved into the shape of a butterfly. Jade can also be used to bring money into one’s life.
Because this stone strengthens mental faculties and helps with clear reasoning, it may also help you make better business decisions. Also known as a protection stone, jade helps guard against accidents and misfortune as well as serving as a protection amulet.
The soothing milky green color of jade helps make it an excellent healing stone, and it helps aid the body in self-healing with psychological ailments by working through the underlying reasons for them. Regarding physical ailments, this stone is particularly helpful for the kidney, heart and stomach.
Agate: Agate is a deep fiery red-brown stone which links to the fire elements and stimulates vitality and inspires inner knowledge to aid in the resolution of problems. It also helps in overcoming addictions and other destructive desires. When worn as jewelry, the stone has a calming effect over the person and also imparts security and safety. This protective stone has strong grounding powers and instills spiritual fortitude. Though generally known for its color, agate is also a popular healing stone as well.
This stone helps in healing the stomach and strengthens the nervous system. It helps improve vision at night and reduces the affects of hot flashes.
This article first appeared in Sabah, a leading Turkish newspaper. Click here to go to the original