CHAP. 1. (1.)—THE FIRST USE OF PRECIOUS STONES.
THAT nothing may be wanting to the work which I have
undertaken, it still remains for me to speak of precious stones:
a subject in which the majestic might of Nature presents itself
to us, contracted within a very limited space, though, in the
opinion of many, nowhere displayed in a more admirable form.
So great is the value that men attach to the multiplied varieties
of these gems, their numerous colours, their constituent parts,
and their singular beauty, that, in the case of some of them, it
is looked upon as no less than sacrilege to engrave them, for
signets even, the very purpose for which, in reality, they were
made. Others, again, are regarded as beyond all price, and could
not be valued at any known amount of human wealth; so much
so that, in the case of many, it is quite sufficient to have some
single gem or other before the eyes, there to behold the supreme
and absolute perfection of Nature's work.
We have already1
stated, to some extent, when speaking on
the subject of gold and rings, how the use of precious stones
first originated, and from what beginnings this admiration of
them has now increased to such an universal passion. According
to fabulous lore, the first use of them was suggested
by the rocks of Caucasus, in consequence of an unhappy interpretation
which was given to the story of the chains of Prometheus:
for we are told by tradition, that he enclosed a fragment
of this stone in iron, and wore it upon his finger;2
being the first ring and the first jewel known.