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Next1 in esteem with us are the pearls of India and Arabia, of which we have already spoken in the Ninth Book,2 when treating of the marine productions.

(5.) The third rank, for many reasons, has been given to the smaragdus.3 Indeed there is no stone, the colour of which is more delightful to the eye; for whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green4 grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the smaragdus, there being no green in existence of a more intense colour5 than this. And then, besides, of all the precious stones, this is the only one that feeds the sight without satiating it. Even when the vision has been fatigued with intently viewing other objects, it is refreshed by being turned upon this stone; and lapidaries know of nothing that is more gratefully soothing to the eyes, its soft green tints being wonderfully adapted for assuaging lassitude, when felt in those organs.

And then, besides, when viewed from a distance, these stones appear all the larger to the sight, reflecting as they do, their green hues upon the circumambient air. Neither sunshine, shade, nor artificial light effects any change in their appearance; they have always a softened and graduated brilliancy; and transmitting the light with facility, they allow the vision to penetrate their interior; a property which is so pleasing, also, with reference to water. In form they are mostly concave, so as to re-unite the rays of light and the powers of vision: and hence it is, that it is so universally agreed upon among mankind to respect these stones, and to forbid their surface6 to be engraved. In the case, however, of the stones of Scythia and Egypt, their hardness is such, that it would be quite impossible to penetrate them. When the surface of the smaragdus is flat, it reflects the image of objects in the same manner as a mirror. The Emperor Nero used to view7 the combats of the gladiators upon a smaragdus.

1 At the present day the ruby is next in esteem to the diamond.

2 Chapter 54, et seq.

3 The Emerald, and various other green precious stones, were included under this name.

4 "Virentes" seems a very preferable reading to "silentes," as given by the Bamberg MS.

5 The emerald is supposed to derive this colour from a minute portion of oxide of chrome.

6 Engraved emeralds are but seldom found among collections of ancient gems. In 1593, there was one found in the tomb of Maria, daughter of Stilicho, in the Vatican, with the head of Honorius, her husband, engraved upon it.

7 "It may here be objected that real emeralds are too small to admit of being used as mirrors; but the ancients speak of some sufficiently large for that purpose, and also of artificial ones; so that we may with certainty conclude, that they classed among the emeralds fluor spar, green vitrified lava, or the green Icelandic agate, as it is called, green jasper, and also green glass."—Beckmann, Hist. Inv. Vol. II. p. 67. Bohn's Edition. It has also been suggested, with reference to this passage, that Nero was shortsighted, and that this emerald was formed like a concave lens. The passage, however, will hardly support such a construction. Ajasson thinks that it must have been a Dioptase or Siberian emerald; or else a green Corundum.

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