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tints of the central stone. Fine opals are of
great value, being considered only next to the
diamond. They are softer than crystal, and
require extreme care in cutting. They generally
consist of about ninety per cent silica, and ten
per cent water, and are very irregular in
texture and hardness. There are many varieties of
value, inferior to the noble opal, known by
various names. Fire opal, hydrophane,
cacholong, may be mentioned as among these.

TURQUOISE is a mineral of great beauty, taking
rank as a gem, though not crystalline, and always
early opaque. It is of a fine azure blue or
bluish-green colour, slightly transparent at the
edges, and  hard enough to admit of a good
polish. It is found in the east and (of late
years at least) chiefly in Arabia and Persia,
whence considerable numbers have been
obtained. It owes its colour to the presence of
copper; and was formerly more commonly used,
and more valued than at present. A superstition
was connected with it as with so many
gems, and the possession of this stone, if given
to the wearernot purchasedwas believed to
ward off any threatening danger. Thus, we
read in Donne

      As a compassionate turkois that doth toll,
      By looking pale, the wearer is not well.

And again, in the play of Sejanus, by Ben

      Observe him as his watch observes his clock,
      And true as turkois in the dear lord's ring
      Look well or ill with him.

This stone was also believed to prevent and
relieve, headaches, and appease hatred.

There are some other substances regarded as
gems, which, though originating with the animal
strictly belong to the mineral kingdom; and
others again, which have the same relation to
the vegetable world. Pearls are among the
former, and amber is an example of the latter.
Coral is a more decided animal product.

PEARLS, as all know, are obtained from the
insides of certain sea-shells, and they appear
to be the result of an effort of the animal
inhabitant and constructor of the shell, either to
repair an injury or to cover up a foreign body
which has been introduced. They are, however,
mineral secretions, and once deposited, the
constructor would seem to have nothing more to
do with them, as they play no part in the organisation
of the healthy animal. They are obtained
both from the Eastern and Western hemispheres,
and from shells varying a good deal in their
form and structure; always, however, in those
having two valves. The number of small pearls
obtained and sent into the market is exceedingly
great, but specimens of any considerable
dimensions are as rare as they are valuable. Those of
good round form and pure clear colour are the
best; the pear-shaped the largest. Pearls do
not bear exposure to damp, nor to animal
exhalations. They should thus be kept dry, and
only worn on special occasions.

AMBER is a fossil resin originally the secreted
juice of some pine, and often containing
embalmed within it remains of insects and even the
most delicate parts of flowers. Its exquisite
yellow colour and beautiful transparency,
together with its delicate perfume and some other
properties, have caused it to be regarded as a
gem. It is found in nodules or lumps on the
sea-shore, chiefly in Northern Europe, or in clay-
pits at various depths, with lignite and gravel.
The specimens containing insects, &c., are highly
valued as curiosities, but not as precious stones.
Amber was formerly much more in use as a
gem than it is now, and in the form of beads,
bracelets, and necklaces, it was a common
ornament of the person in England in the time of
Shakespeare. It is not now altogether out of
fashion, and its lightness and elegant simplicity
are worthy of some attention. Medicinal
properties were at one time attributed to it, and it
is still used for perfumes and some medical
compounds, but there is no difficulty in
manufacturing it artificially.

CORAL, if not a gem, ranks with the class of
ornamental minerals we are now considering.
It is not, however, like the pearl, an extraneous
secretion, unnecessary and useless to the animal
that constructs it, but the skeleton, or stony
framework of the animal itself. The only kind
of coral of important value is that beautiful red
variety, fished up in the Mediterranean. This
has been regarded as a talisman against enchantments,
witchcraft, venom, the assaults of the
devil, thunder, and marine tempests. Ten grains
of it, we are told, if given to an infant in its
mother's milk, provided it be a first child, and
this its first food, will preserve it from epileptic
and other fits for the whole of its life. Another
great authority, in matters of this kind, believes
that coral worn by a healthy man will be of a
handsomer and more lively red than if worn by
a woman, and that it becomes pale and livid if
worn by one who is ill and in danger of death.
We can only say with regard to this that we
have not ourselves tried the experiment, and
that perhaps, like many other experiments, it
would succeed only in the hands of the faithful.

There are many curious superstitions and
fancies concerning precious stones, besides those
we have referred to, and one of them, which, as
it is elegant and fanciful in its absurdity, is
perhaps worthy of mention in this place, as including
the whole group of gems used for ornament.
It is a Polish idea that every human being is
born under the influence of some destiny, that
the month of his nativity has a mysterious
connexion with this, and that when it is desired to
make a present to one greatly valued and loved,
a ring should be offered, containing a gem
expressing some such quality as the destiny would
indicate. Each precious stone thus has reference
to some particular month, and the following
list is copied from a memorandum drawn up
by a Pole many years ago:

January, Hyacinth or garnet. Constancy
and fidelity in every engagement.

February. Amethyst. Preserves the wearer
from strong passions, and ensures peace of mind.