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Mineralogy Medicine


Information is updated regularly

Gems beliefs and their therapeutic applications


Initiated by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the competition themed 'redesigning the medieval book' called for submissions of contemporary books or artefacts inspired by manuscripts and inscriptions written during the middle ages in old (c.650 - c.1066) and middle English (c. 1066 - c.1500).

The Exhibition 'Designing English' displays those modern interpretations alongside their medieval cousins.

Revisiting the Medieval Manuscript
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Lapidaries are books used in the middle ages to describe the medicinal virtues and the therapeutic applications of gemstones.

The documentation of healing and protective values and powers of precious and semi precious stones dates back to ancient Mesopotania. Most texts which survived are from the medieval period and can be seen as pre modern manuals of mineralogy and associated medicinal benefits. Medieval lapidaries listed the medicinal properties of a gem and the most common methods of applications, some of which are wearing the stone in contact with the skin, ointments made from ground stones.

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References to gemstones - precious and semi precious - and the lore and medicinal virtues attributed to them appear in many ancient writings. Aristotle, Priny the Elder, Mabode and Hildegard Von Bingen wrote detailed descriptions of the various therapeutic uses of gemstones. The stones presented here are not exhaustive and their descriptions include both ancient and modern views, superstitions and more scientific approaches.

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From ancient times belief in the magical properties and talismanic virtues of gems and crystals has been prevalent, especially in the East, the source of mystic wisdom. But in these days to credit anything in Nature with occult virtue is held to be a foolish thing, and the practical moderns see no “power to charm” in precious stones, save by their commercial value. So that a jewel once venerated by the Magi of old, as a talisman possessing wondrous power, is to-day for the world at large a valuable ornament, and nothing more. Therefore, let us search for ourselves the lore of the past, and learn the mystic virtues that precious gems possessed in vanished ages.


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The Gems
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