Crystal Bracelets – Which Cultural Reference Do You Use?

One category of product to continue to grow in popularity and value despite the current recession is “fashion crystals”. These items, such as crystal bracelets and other pieces of jewellery have continued to provide a good investment. While all precious and semi-precious metals and stones have continued to rise in value, this has mostly been for practical reasons. The significant increase in the cost of cut stone’s bears a little more scrutiny as most have little or no industrial value.

To find out why this is the case, we need to understand how significant crystal bracelets and other accessories of this type have been throughout the ages. In mediaeval Japan for instance local conflicts and even wars have been started purely because of a feud over the ownership of jewellery of this type.

Nigel Parker wrote “Journeys in the Orient” in 1798, in which he describes spending three months with a family near what is now Tokyo. They were grieving for the loss of a family heirloom, which at first bemused the author as it was a simple crystal bracelet made of Onyx. However, it was clear that the emotional significance of the item far outweighed any objective monetary value that could be put upon it. While in the West this could be put down to the sentimentalism that is normally attached to an heirloom, in this case it was clear that there was something more, so Dr Parker decided to investigate.

He knew that around the world, societies and civilisations have discovered these beautifully coloured crystals and, because geology was an unknown science at the time of the discovery, they had imbued these stones with meanings and history often derived from their own local mythology. Significance was often attached to the size shape and colour and cut of these rocks. In the case of the family he was living with it became apparent that a crystal bracelet as an heirloom passed down for more than three generations had supposedly become a “life holder” and contained part of the soul of those who previously worn it. So he could see why his hosts were upset. This was clearly a belief they held most devoutly.

Wherever you go you will find similar stories. Value and meaning that far outweigh any realistic judgement has been placed upon these coloured gems. Precious stones, and particularly those worn as crystal bracelets do have one meaning that seems to transcend many of the cultures in which they have been worn throughout history. That is when a woman wears a crystal of a particular colour it means she is married or no longer available. A clear crystal is often used to denote purity in many cultures no matter how diverse.

The Natural History Museum in the UK now categorises over 4000 different colours and styles of rock. Each one of these stones is categorised by where it is found and as part of their encyclopaedic reference it includes a potted history of any meaning that may have been attached to the stone specific to the place where it was found. What started out as a job for two people at the museum rapidly spiralled into its own department now housing eight people. Sorting out the various meanings of jewellery depending on which area of the world it was found has turned out to be a full-time job.

Don’t forget the significance of giving or receiving an item like this as a gift. Although other than the clarity of “virgin crystals”, there is very little consensus in the actual meaning of all the other precious rocks. So when or if you are given a beautiful piece of jewellery and people say to you “You know what that means?”. Remember it could mean one of many hundreds of different things depending on which cultural reference you choose to use.

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