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It will be only proper, too, seeing that the prices of these stones are so exorbitant, to point out their defects. Some defects, no doubt, are common to all of them, while others, again, like those found in the human race, are peculiar only to those of a certain country. Thus, for example, the stones of Cyprus are not all green alike, and in the same smaragdus some parts are more or less so than others, the stone not always preserving that uniform deep tint which characterizes the smaragdus of Scythia. In other instances, a shadow runs through the stone, and the colour becomes dulled thereby; the consequence of which is, that its value is depreciated; and even more so, when the colour is thin and diluted.

In consequence of the defects1 in these stones, they have been divided into several classes. Some of them are obscure, and are then known as "blind" stones; some have a certain density, which impairs their transparency; others, again, are mottled, and others covered with a cloud. This cloud, however, is altogether different from the shadow above mentioned; for it is a defect which renders the stone of a whitish hue, and not of a transparent green throughout; presenting, as it does, in the interior or upon the surface, a certain degree of whiteness which arrests the vision. Other defects, again, in these stones, are filaments, salt-like2 grains, or traces of lead ore, faults which are mostly common to them all.

Next after the kinds above described, the smaragdus of Æthiopia is held in high esteem; being found, as Juba tells us, at a distance of twenty-five days' journey from Coptos. These are of a bright green, but are seldom to be met with perfectly clear or of an uniform colour. Democritus includes in this class the stones that are known as "herminei," and as "Persian" stones; the former of which are of a convex, massive shape, while the latter are destitute of transparency, but have an agreeable, uniform colour, and satisfy the vision without allowing it to penetrate them; strongly resembling, in this respect, the eyes of cats and of panthers, which are radiant without being diaphanous. In the sun, he says, they lose their brilliancy, but they are radiant in the shade, the brightness of them being seen at a greater distance than in the case of other stones. One other fault, too, in all these stones is, that they often have a colour like that of honey or rancid oil, or else are clear and transparent, but not green.

These defects exist in the smaragdi of Attica,3 more particularly, which are found in the silver-mines there, at a place known by the name of Thoricos.4 These last are never so massive as the others, and are always more pleasing to the sight when viewed from a distance: lead ore, too, is often to be detected in them, or, in other words, they have a leaden appearance when looked at in the sun.5 One peculiarity in them is, that some of them become impaired by age, gradually lose their green colour, and are even deteriorated by exposure to the sun. Next to the stones of Attica come those of Media, a variety which presents the most numerous tints of all, and sometimes approaches sapphiros6 in colour. These stones are wavy,7 and represent various natural objects, such as poppy-heads, for example, birds, the young of animals, and feathers: all of them appear naturally of a green colour, but become improved by the application of oil. No stones of this species are of a larger size than these.

I am not aware that any of these stones8 are still in existence at Chalcedon, the copper mines of that locality being now exhausted: but be this as it may, they were always the smallest in size and the most inferior in value. Brittle, and of a colour far from distinctly pronounced, they resembled in their tints the feathers that are seen in the tail of the peacock or on the necks of pigeons.9 More or less brilliant, too, according to the angle at which they were viewed, they presented an appearance like that of veins and scales. There was another defect, also, peculiar to these stones, known as "sarcion," from the circumstance that a kind of flesh10 appeared to attach itself to the stone. The mountain near Chalcedon, where these stones were gathered, is still known by the name of "Smaragdites." Juba informs us that a kind of smaragdus, known as "cloras,"11 is used in Arabia as an ornament for buildings, as also the stone which by the people of Egypt is called "alabastrites." On the same authority, too, we learn that there are several varieties of the smaragdus in the neighbouring mountains, and that stones like those of Media are found in Mount Taygetus,12 as also in Sicily.

1 Ajasson remarks that the greater part of the defects here described belong in reality to the Dioptase.

2 "Sal." See Chapters 8, 10, 22, and 37, of this Book.

3 Ajasson is of opinion that Diallage is here meant, known also by the names of Bronzite, schillerspath, schillerstein, and omphasite.

4 See B. iv. c. 11.

5 "In sole" seems a preferable reading to "in solo," "on the ground," as given by the Bamberg MS.

6 See Chapter 39 of this Book; where it will be shown that this probably is not the modern Sapphire.

7 Ajasson suggests that these may have been Quartz agates of the dendritic or arborized kind.

8 He probably alludes here to some variety of the Chalcedony or Opal quartz.

9 Said with reference to Chrysoprase, Ajasson thinks; a leek-green chalcedony, coloured by nickel.

10 Probably the Cacholong of modern mineralogy, a variety of opal, nearly opaque, and of a porcelain or bluish white colour.

11 Ajasson and Brotero identify this with milk-white chalcedony; but on what authority, does not appear.

12 See B. iv. c. 8.

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  • Cross-references to this page (5):
    • Harper's, Abăcus
    • Harper's, Murrhīna
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), AB´ACUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), MU´RRHINA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), COPTOS
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