The Language of Gemstones

Gemstones are part of my life.  I’m around them all day at work!  But many people feel that their interaction with gems and jewels is minimal.  Our language, however, is quite “loaded” with references to gems.  This pervasiveness means that it’s literally impossible to live life without some knowledge of gems.  

Many women, and some MEN!, are named after gemstones.  Have you ever met an Amber, a Ruby, or a Jade?  Other well-known names include Beryl, Pearl, Opal, Jett, and Jasper.  Names like Gemma and Crystal aren’t gemstone names, per se, but they mimic the idea of gems.  And there are plenty of less-common names like Jacinth, Sapphire, and Garnet.

Beryl Markham, Aviatrix, and character in the movie, Out of Africa

Pearl S Buck, author of The Good Earth

 

 

 

 

 

Amber Tamblyn, actress. Starred in Two and a Half Men

Companies like Crayola and Pantene have borrowed names from gemstones to describe their colors.  Do you remember coloring with crayons labeled Aquamarine or Amethyst?  What about Pantene’s Color of the Year last year–Rose Quartz!  Names like Ruby, Emerald, or Turquoise bring colors vividly to mind.  The gemstone names can be colorful adjectives, and the entertainment industry has used them for years.  Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz with her RUBY red slippers? Or how about Dolly Parton singing about Jolene and her eyes of EMERALD green?  

Even gemstones with little or no color get used a lot in our language.  Diamond is the most popular gemstone used in songwriting.  Pearl is the runner-up.  Over 1200 songs were counted as having the word, Diamond.  Rhianna has a recent song, “Diamonds”, which, I’m sure, is quite popular.  My mind goes back to my 8th grade synchronized swimming program, when we swam to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Ethel Merman.  (I guess that dates me, doesn’t it?)

There are sayings and quotations about gemstones.  For example, “Diamond in the Rough” means that something or someone is valuable and good, but not polished or finished.  “Pearls of Wisdom” means rare and worthy words of advice.  Even the Bible contributes to the list with “Pearls before Swine” which talks about not giving out words or things of great value to those who won’t appreciate them.  In general, gemstones are used as synonyms for something or someone rare, valuable, and special.  

I love these funny quotations about gemstones and jewelry that I came across while researching for this blog.

Diamonds are only chunks of coal, that stuck to their jobs, you see.    by Minnie Richard Smith

Jewelry takes people’s minds off your wrinkles.  by Sonja Henie

I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage.  They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.    by Rita Rudner

But I want to end with a reference to gemstones that we all learned from early in our youth.  This is proof, in my opinion,  that one can’t go through life without some knowledge of gems:

Twinkle, twinkle little star– How I wonder what you are.  Up above the world so high–Like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle little star–How I wonder what you are. 

Elizabeth Taylor Revisited–When One Post Just Isn’t Enough

A few months back I wrote about Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewelry, based on her book, My Love Affair With Jewelry.  Little did I know that the blog would spark so much interest, both in me and in others.  After more research and a presentation at our store, I feel empowered to add to the topic. 

Elizabeth Taylor was always a lady, always “put together.” These were the words of a friend of hers who I was fortunate to speak with.  She wore jewelry appropriate to the occasion.  She owned big, dripping, diamond, emerald, and ruby jewelry which she wore on the ‘red carpets.’  But she also owned more modest pieces like strings of beads and charm bracelets.  According to her friend, she never left her room without jewelry adorning her outfit, but she made sure the jewelry fit the occasion.  

She obviously loved receiving gifts of jewelry, but she was always willing to share her pieces with the world.  She didn’t lock them away.  As she said in her book, “When I wear it anyone can look at it, and I’ll let anyone try it on.”  For all that she owned, I’m not convinced she was materialistic.  I think she cared most about people.  She related to people and had many friends.  The people who knew and loved her most understood that the receiving of gifts was her top ‘Love Language.’  Malcolm Forbes once gave her a suite of paper jewelry that she treasured. A gift was an expression of love, and that was most important to her.

Paper Jewelry from Malcolm Forbes

 

Elizabeth always knew that, when she died, most of her jewelry would be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Her collection would not remain intact.  She hoped that the new owners would love the pieces as much as she did, and that they’d see themselves as caretakers.  “Nobody owns anything this beautiful.  We are only the guardians,” she said.  

In December, 2011, nine months after Elizabeth died, her jewelry did indeed get auctioned by Christie’s, both in a live auction at New York’s Rockefeller Center and also through an on-line auction.  The live auction was the most valuable jewelry auction in history, raising almost $116 million.  I spoke with someone who went to the auction.  She and her husband had hoped to purchase some of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry for their store, just for promotional purposes.  But the pieces were fetching two, three, and up to ten times the auction estimate.  They ended up buying the paper jewelry, and even that sold for $6,875!  

The on-line auction had over 950 items–jewelry, clothing, accessories, and decorative arts–that sold over the extended period of December 3rd – 17th.  Altogether the auctions raised over 150 million dollars for the Elizabeth Taylor Trust and its beneficiaries. The Trust completely funds the operating costs of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

 One controversy regarding the auction casts a shadow over its success.  In May, 2017, the Elizabeth Taylor Trust filed suit against Christie’s for misrepresenting one of Ms. Taylor’s most iconic diamonds, the Taj Mahal.  In 2012, the buyer of the diamond claimed that he was led to believe the diamond was once owned by Shah Jahan, the emperor who built the Taj Mahal.  He wanted his $8 million back when he learned there was no proof the Shah had ever owned it.  Christie’s refunded his money, but the Trustees felt that Christie’s action was inappropriate.  The trustees never portrayed the diamond as something that had belonged to the Shah, and they were upset that the best opportunity to sell the diamond was gone because of miscommunication.  As it stands right now, Christie’s possesses the diamond and the Trustees have the cash.  After years of trying to resolve the controversy through mediation, the decision was made to go through the courts.  It sound like a terrible mess which will probably take years to untangle. 

Elizabeth Taylor lived a complicated life.  She was often misunderstood.  It makes sense that, even after she’s gone, there’s some untangling to be done.  But I hope you agree with me that learning more about this fascinating celebrity is worth the effort.