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Ancient Egyptian Gemstones

Updated on December 4, 2013

Whether it is the great pyramids or the intricate gemstones that adorned Egyptian royalty, Egypt has a way with stones. Many of the ancient Egyptian methods for cutting gemstones has been lost, but the quality is still there today. You won't be finding a pear shaped diamond amongst ancient ruins, unfortunately, as diamonds were not available in Egypt, but that doesn't mean that they did not do incredible and amazing things with the stones they did use! The wealthy amongst Egypt would dress themselves in gems of all colors, each color having a specific meaning. Today, a woman only needs to don a dazzling amethyst necklace or elegant emerald ring to feel just as much a queen as Cleopatra.

Lapis Lazuli

It is hard to imagine that this deep cobalt blue stone is only considered semi-precious. Most lapis are flecked throughout with hints of pyrite, calcite and sodalite. The gold, white and blue colors of the other minerals can cause a marble effect or sometimes appear as specks, resembling stars on a cloudless night sky. The ancient Egyptians used this gem to represent depth and purity. Nothing sets off the true beauty of at lapis like a yellow gold setting. It pulls the shimmers of pyrite out, causing a contrasting and dramatic effect.

Turquoise is a beautiful stone used in ancient times.
Turquoise is a beautiful stone used in ancient times.


Much like the lapis, turquoise is another opaque gemstone favored by Egyptians. The coloring is similar to that of the tropical sea and it was used to represent joy, cleanliness and pleasure. The infamous golden burial mask of King Tut was inlaid with turquoise, lapis and carnelian. Turquoise tends to be very fragile, similar to that of a glass window. Silver or white gold pairs best with the beautiful stone.


Since before 3500 BC, emeralds have been mined in Egypt. The beautiful green stone was rumored to be Cleopatra’s favorite, to the extent where she gifted foreign dignities emeralds carved in her likeness. Egypt held the monopoly on emeralds till the 16th century. Today, an emerald in perfect condition is worth far more than a diamond due to the rarity of the stone. Egyptians linked emeralds to fertility, immortality, rejuvenation and eternal spring. It is no surprise that emerald happens to be May’s Birthstone, given those characteristics.


Nothing is more regal than an amethyst necklace and earrings. Many people know that purple is known to represent royalty, but they are not familiar with the fact that it goes back to the amethyst and ancient Egyptian sovereigns. This translucent gemstone is a kind of quartz which was often found in pendants to signify royalty and wealth. Those lucky enough to be born in February are born with a reason to collect this violet gem; amethyst is February’s birthstone.

There is no jewel quite as beautiful as the garnet.
There is no jewel quite as beautiful as the garnet.


While the most popular variety of garnet comes in an earthy scarlet shade, the gem is also available in yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, pink, brown and black. Egyptian jewelers favored the deep red version, as it was symbolic of power, energy, life, blood and death. It pairs beautifully with gold and silver settings and is known for being January’s birthstone.


Carnelian is an orange-red, brown-red or yellow form of quartz. It ranges from translucent to opaque in color. Egyptians held the belief that this gem would assist in a safe passage to the afterlife and held special powers there. Carnelian amulets were worn by the deceased and many artifacts created from the gem are commonly found in tombs.


The very definition of jasper means spotted stone. There are many varieties and patterns of jasper. The most popular colors are grey, red, brown and green. Jasper was meant to prevent death and scorpion bites. It is a very abstract looking gemstone, and the typical colors make it an excellent choice for men’s jewelry.

One doesn’t need to be an ancient Egyptian to appreciate the beauty of gemstones. Jewelry is a great way to boost confidence and feel elegant. If wearing an amethyst necklace allows you feel like royalty and donning your favorite emerald earrings lets you invoke a bit of Cleopatra’s spirit, there is nothing wrong with it.


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