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Of this stone there are no less than twelve different kinds; of which the finest is the Scythian1 smaragdus, so called from the country where it is found. None of them has a deeper colour than this, or is more free from defects: indeed, in the same degree that the smaragdus is superior to other precious stones, the Scythian smaragdus is superior to the other varieties. Next in esteem to this, as also in locality, is the smaragdus of Bactriana.2 These stones are collected, it is said, in the fissures of rocks, when the Etesian3 winds prevail; a period at which the earth that covers them is removed, and the stones are detected by their brightness, the sands being greatly agitated by the action of the winds. These last, however, are much inferior, they say, to those of Scythia in size. The third rank is held by the stones of Egypt,4 which are extracted from the hills in the vicinity of Coptos, a city of Thebais.

All the other kinds are found in copper-mines, and hence it is that, of these varieties, the smaragdus of Cyprus holds the highest rank. The merit of them consists in their clear colour, which has nothing thin or diluted in it, but presents a rich and humid transparency, closely resembling the tints of the sea, in fact. Hence it is that these stones are at once diaphanous and shining, or, in other words, reflect their colours and allow the vision to penetrate within. They say that in this island, upon the tomb of a petty king named Hermias, near the fisheries5 there, there was formerly a lion in marble, with eyes made of smaragdi; the brilliancy of which penetrated the sea to such a degree, as to alarm the tunnies and put them to flight: a novel circumstance, which for a long time excited wonder in the fishermen, till at last the stones in the statue were changed for others.

1 Ajasson is of opinion that the Dioptase, Siberian emerald, or Malachite emerald is meant.

2 Ajasson thinks that this may be the Dioptase or Achirite of Chinese Bucharia; and that the merchant Achir Mahmed, from whom it takes its name, was by no means the first to introduce it, or to circulate his wonderful stories as to its formation.

3 See B. ii. cc. 47, 48, and B. xviii. c. 74.

4 Mount Zalora, in Upper Egypt, still produces emeralds, and was probably the only locality of the genuine stone that was known to the ancients.

5 "Cetarias,"

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SOCCUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), COPTOS
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (4):
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