Traversing Through the History of Gold in Ancient Egypt

Gold Bars Stacked Up in a Pyramid There are more than 100 elements on the periodic table including gold, but human’s obsession with this mineral remains unmatched. There are many earthly elements that appear unusual, but that doesn’t necessarily increase their value like it does for this yellow alloy. Gold has been revered and prized since the inception of human history and is a high level commodity throughout the world.

In this article we will take a look back into when humans became aware of the existence of gold and will discuss its history with an Egyptian tangent.

When did humans come to know about gold?

Even though this question is still the topic of debate, it has been reported by various historians that gold was first discovered in Asia Minor around 6000 BC. Asia Minor is a geographical region present in the southern-west part of Asia. Most part of Asia Minor now forms the present-day Turkey. This area is also documented as the birthplace of gold coins.

Skim through the pages of history and you will find that every civilization that has ever existed on the face of Earth has used gold as a premium mineral. Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and nearly every rich civilization in the world, utilized gold for making coins, jewelry and other valuable items.

Even way before these ancient civilizations, people in the Stone Age used gold for ornamental reasons. They had probably realized that this mineral is not suitable to use in tools like iron and other metals.

This brief analysis indicates the fact that we humans have been revering gold since our formative years of history and adaptation didn’t play any significant role in it.

Let’s get a little more enthralled by finding out the value and uses of gold in the ancient Egyptian civilization.

Ancient Egyptians and their fascination with gold

World truly came to know about Ancient Egypt’s obsession with gold when the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh of 18th Dynasty, Tutankhamun, was excavated in 1922. Howard Carter, a British archaeologist and Egyptologist, who discovered the tomb reported what he saw, “And gold – everywhere the glint of gold”.

In ancient Egypt, gold was not used as money because until 305 BC, as the barter system was the financial exchange model. They used food and other tangible items for trade and payment to people for their services.

With that in mind, historical evidence suggests that gold was exclusively used by the Egyptian Royalty. Since gold didn’t have any economic value then, it was revered and prized due to different reasons.

  • Its appearance – it is compared to the dazzling light of the sun and associated with Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god.
  • Egyptians believed that skin of gods were made of gold and their bones made of silver.
  • As gold is chemically unreactive, Egyptians linked this inertness with indestructibility and eternal life. It was used for coffins and funerary equipment of Pharaohs to preserve their mortal remains for eternity.

Used as diplomatic tools and for military rewards

Pharaohs also used gold as a diplomatic tool because they sent large quantities of gold as gifts to their allies and other monarchs to keep them happy and willing to fight for their kingdom.

Gold was also used to reward war veterans and military fighters. Many historians are of the thought that the tradition of awarding military medals started from Egypt, because pharaohs would reward their military men with collars and arm rings made of gold.

Profession of goldsmith: Brings fortune and prestige

Goldsmiths who were proficient in carving delicate jewelry, statues and funerary equipment were wealthy and respected by the society. Egyptian goldsmiths invented several techniques and practices that are used by jewelers and goldsmiths even today.

  • They started to use lost-wax casting technique to provide more detail to the statutes.
  • Beating and molding gold into different jewelry designs like flowers and leaves was introduced by Egyptians.
  • Egyptians goldsmiths were also credited for creating innovate gold alloys. One such example is the making of Electrum. Electrum is naturally occurring alloy made of gold, silver and traces of copper and other metals. It was used to plate the exterior of ancient Egyptian monuments.

Ancient civilizations and modern human civilizations are poles apart in many of their features. Traditions of bygone times have become taboo and vice versa. However, it is quite surreal and fascinating to know that the practice of valuing gold remains unscathed throughout the passage of time. Even the theory of postmodernism can’t inflict its hypothesis on the fate of gold.


Aquamarine – The Jewel of the Sea

AquamarineAquamarine is given its name because of the blueness of this gem that depicts the blueness of the ocean. In Latin, it means the water of the sea, and the name was actually given by the Romans in 2000 BC. Since the ancient times, aquamarine has been regarded as a precious gemstone.

In Greek mythology, sailors believed that the stone would protect them from the destruction of Poseidon, the God of sea in Greek mythology, and Neptune according to Roman mythology. It was possessed by the sailors with the hope of a safe journey through the seas. Since it represents water, it is the birthstone representing the month of March, also known as the month of Pisces. Because of its blue color, it is believed that it possess the tendency to calm a person with its tranquil effects and bring forth wisdom.


Aquamarine belongs to the Beryl family, which includes heliodor, emerald, morganite and goshenite. Beryl is aluminum beryllium silicate, which has the hardness level of 7.5. The blue color of aquamarine is due to the presence of traces of iron in it, each with different amount that then cause different shades of blue, sometimes with a hint of green. Unlike emerald, it has little to no inclusions. It has a hexagonal crystalline structure.

Properties and formation

Aquamarine is an almost transparent gem because of no inclusions in it. Since it is very clear, the color plays an important role in determining its worth. Lapidaries try to accentuate the colors of aquamarine by focusing on its cuts. They go for deeper cuts to bring the colors out. You will never find an aquamarine too dark. The color ranges between light blue to intense blue, with inclusions of some greenish shades. However, light shades of aquamarine are most common, making the intense shades of blue more precious and demanded. Aquamarine is usually associated with the family of quartz, biotite, topaz and garnet because of its density and hardness and because it occurs in the form of pegmatite.

Where it is found

In modern times, Brazil is the top supplier of aquamarines as they are abundantly found there. More recently, South Africa has also become a leading supplier of aquamarine. Pakistan, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Madagascar have large reserves of aquamarine.

Mystical attributes of aquamarine

Aquamarine is believed to help in stimulating better mental health due to its calming effects. It is used to bring tranquility, a sense of peace and unity. People use it to aid themselves in spiritual meditations. It was thought to be an antidote or poison. Sailors wore this for protection, and in the battleground, it was worn by soldiers to instill a sense of glory and victory in them. It represents the throat chakra, which is why people believe it to help in unblocking the communication blocks and stimulating spiritual connection. The blueness of aquamarine depicts the openness of the sea. It represents the absolute truth and helps a person in letting go of things and patterns, which does not benefit them any longer.


Classification of Gemstones

Gemstones are precious mineral and rock formations that are extracted from within the earth and vary in terms of their size, color and structure. It is due to this diversity in their types that gemstones cannot be classified through a single classification system. There are many ways geologist classify rocks and minerals found. First way to classify gemstones is by categorizing them into natural, synthetic and imitated gems. Aside from that, they are also classified as organic or inorganic and crystalline or amorphous rocks.

Classification as Natural and Synthetic

The only difference between natural and synthetic gem is the way they are made. Natural stones occur naturally, in our geological system without any human interference in their formation. Natural gemstones are regarded as rare because no gemstone is same as the other. Each is formed under slightly different environmental conditions. It is this rarity that makes them precious and unique. To identify a real natural gemstone, one must look for inclusions in the stones as these gems are bound to have inclusions due to the addition of other minerals during the process of their formation.  

On the other hands, synthetic gemstones are those, which are formed in labs by inducing the same environmental stimuli. Carbon and other chemical elements are used and treated under specific time, pressure and temperature setting to produce a gem. The gems produced in labs are chemically identical to those formed in earth.

Classification as Organic and Inorganic Rocks

Aside from classifying gemstones based on their occurrence, they can also be categorized into organic and inorganic gemstones.

Organic gemstones are those that are formed because of a living organism. It can include sea species, plants, shells, fossils, etc. The word ‘organic’ refers to something that involves organisms. Ivory, pearls, amber, coral, jet, ammonites, ammolites – they all are good examples of organic gemstones.

All other gemstones that are not formed through the organic way are categorized as inorganic. Whether they are found in earth, on its surface or beneath it, are known as inorganic minerals and comprise of almost all the gemstones we know of.  Inorganic gemstones, which are created in labs, are not considered as gemstones, and that is why they cannot be advertised as such.

Classification as Crystalline and Amorphous Rocks

Gems can be classified in the manner of differentiation between amorphous rocks and crystallized rocks. Amorphous rocks are those, which do not have a particular crystalline structure. They are naturally occurring and often called mineraloids.  Opal, amber and glass are all good examples of mineraloids. However, not all amorphous minerals are classified as gems.

On the other hand, crystallized minerals or crystals are those, which have a tight molecular structure with repetitive chains and formations. They are formed by three-dimensional arrangements of molecules. Diamonds and rubies are an example of crystals. Zircon is the world’s oldest found crystal. However, not all crystals can be classified as gems because crystals are pure substances that have a solid and definite structure, since their molecules are arranged in a specific three-dimensionally array.  

All about the Volcanic Stone – Agate

For an agate to be regarded as real and precious, the main requirement is that it must have bands. This makes it easy to be distinguished from other varieties of chalcedony. However, there are some types of agate, such as moss agate and dendritic agate which do not have bands on them, but they have inclusions which appear like bands in some cases.

The blue agate pictured above has been artificially dyed blue using a chemical process. These differ from banded, moss, tree and other collectible agates in that they are artificially enhanced and thus not a natural collectible. Dyed agates like this in pink, blue, green and other colors are widely available at novelty and gift stores throughout the world. Adults and children alike often are introduced to rocks and minerals through an artificially enhanced product like this

How Agate is Formed

These gems are known as semi-precious that originate from the chalcedony of the quartz family – a silicon dioxide formation arranged in the form of small quartz crystals.  The mineral is naturally formed in volcanoes when cave water rich in silica keeps dripping through the cavities between the rocks. This silica keeps accumulating in small holes in volcanic rocks and over a long course of time, it ends up filling the holes completely. The layers change to form microcrystals and this is what’s responsible for the bands found on it. Differences in colors of agate are due to changes in temperature, pressure and the matter collected during its formation.

Agate in History

If we look back in ancient times, we can find agate among the artifacts discovered from Neolithic regions. History tells us that agate was used in carving items, such as ornaments and amulets. Agate has also been used in Greek and Egyptian empires because of its medicinal properties, which later spread to Russia through Middle Eastern countries. the Greek philosopher Theophrastus was the one who found agate on the Shore of the Dirillo River in Sicily, somewhere around the 3rd and 4th BC.   

The historical backdrop of Agate links back to the German town of Idar-Oberstein, which has developed to be known as a vital gemstone center. Agates and Jasper were found in the Idar-Oberstein area, and cut and cleaned by neighborhood artisans. When large deposits of agate were found in the Rio Grande do Sul, in the 1800s, it was shipped to Germany for getting cut and cleaned. The nearby Agate cutters of Idar-Oberstein were appropriate for this work due to their skills and excellent craftsmanship. This is why Idar-Oberstein is important in terms of agate refinement. Agate can be found almost everywhere in the world. It is commonly available and yet equally demanded because of its beautiful unusual color bands and buttery appearance.

Throughout the course of history, agate has been regarded and revered by the masses. It has also been used in almost all cultures and civilizations, In Islamic culture, it has been worn by prophets, whereas in Babylonian civilizations, agate was used for protection and strength. It was used in the breastplates and swords in ancient times. Not just that, it is believed that agate is a grounding stone, which balances the yin-yang energy in one’s body. It was also used to ward off fears and insecurities and help with the feelings of envy and jealousy as it grounds all the energies in our bodies, which are not beneficial. 

Jasper – The Blood Stone

 Jasper pebble
Jasper is an opaque variety of Chalcedony

Jasper is known as an opaque variety of chalcedony, a microcrystalline form of quartz. Yes, jasper can be seen as quartz as well. However, its classification is still not easy. Due to the impurities found in jasper, it is more like a rock than mineral. The mineral content of the sediments it is formed in is responsible for the color of jasper. Sometimes it is red, and sometimes it varies from yellow to brown. Often times the minerals diffuses with each other and the rock is mixed with other minerals of different colors, which then form the swirls and lines found on jasper. Jasper is widely found, comprising of 12% of earth crust.

The historical underpinnings, or Jasper importance, are “spotted or dotted stone” since Jasper in some cases, contains spots of dregs, fiery remains or mineral material. The significance of Jasper stems from the Old French word ‘jaspre’ or Latin ‘iaspidem’— which deciphers the distance back to its old Greek, Hebrew or Acadian roots.

You may see that each piece of jasper is unique and different from the other one because of the organic material trapped inside it, which oxidizes to form a unique structural arrangement. The lines and swirls on jasper sometimes depict the sandy dune in a desert or a mountainous landscape.

Jasper in ancient history

Jasper’s roots can be traced back to early Mesopotamian civilizations, where green and red jaspers were considered highly precious. Historically, Jasper can be traced back to almost all the ancient civilizations. Shamans wore it, and other kings and priests also used to wear it in form of an amulet. It was known to have protective powers against illness and evil.

People believed it to protect them in this world and afterlife, which is why ancient Egyptians used to bury the dead with jasper, hoping it to help ease the transition afterlife. Talismans, rings, amulets and seals used to be engraved with jasper. In ancient Egypt, jasper was also considered as a symbol of motherhood and fertility. Red Indians believed jasper to promote health and aid in rebirth. It was known as the blood of the mother earth. In Viking and German legends, the handle of the mystical sword of Siegfried, the winged serpent slayer, was decorated with Red Jasper to provide him boldness and courage. 

Metaphysical properties of jasper

Jasper is known for protection, physical endurance and strength. It is worn to keep the balance and to keep the person grounded. Jasper is known to activate the root chakra with its red color.

Our root chakra is where the Chi energy resides and jasper is known to stimulate that energy and give a person stability and vitality. It has cleaning properties, which is why it is believed to eliminate the negative energies and clean the aura. It is used to curb aggression and heal infertility.

While metaphysical benefit of jasper may be doubted, jasper makes a great stone to be carved and used to make earrings, rings and necklaces.

Evaluating the Methods to Cleanse Gemstone Necklaces

Gemstone NecklacesGemstone necklaces need effective cleansing every now and then. If you take proper care of these healing gemstones, you can benefit from their extensive capabilities. Their cleansing is necessary to ensure nothing daunts their beauty and healing capabilities.

Therapeutically, it is said that gemstones are capable of releasing unwanted and harmful energies from a person’s body. Sometimes, these unwanted energies gather up on the surface of gemstones as well as in the energy field surrounding each of them, which compromises the healing power of gemstones. Therefore, it is important that you cleanse your gemstone necklace regularly.

There are various methods to cleanse gemstone necklaces. Running water, moonlight, sunlight, salt, soil cleansing, smudging, clay packs and baths are among the most common ones. Additionally, there are cleansing sprays available that are made with the energetic imprint of gemstone energies. These sprays are designed to remove a range of unwanted energies. This method may be considered as the easiest, quickest and most effective of all.


While water is effective for cleansing of crystals and crystal cluster, there are some considerable drawbacks in cleansing gemstone necklaces with water. The most evident one is premature necklace breakage. This problem can occur if the gemstone necklace is cleansed using water daily or more often, if you have a severe medical condition. Also, repeatedly losing contact with the gemstone necklace, to let it dry, can affect its therapeutic resources. 


Bathing in moonlight can be effective, but only in case of certain gemstones, such as Sugilite. It may appear as if it is the light of the moon, or rather sun’s reflection, that does the cleansing, but in fact, it’s the gravitational pull. Remember to first apply a cleansing spray on the gemstone, before placing it outside to bathe in the lunar energy. Also, always place it in a protected area and for few hours.


Another popular method of cleansing a gemstone necklace is sunlight. However, sunlight can impart destructive solar radiation and bleach the color from certain gemstones. If you are going to place gemstone in sunlight, always remember to place it behind a windowpane to avoid the harmful effects of solar radiation. This method is, however, no longer recommended due to constantly changing cosmic and solar radiation level, which can damage gemstone’s therapeutic energies.


An easy way to cleanse your gemstone is by placing it in a bowl of salt. However, this does not provide a complete cleanse. Salt crystals are able to absorb a lot of unwanted energies, but not all of them. Also, you must replace the salt every two to three days.

Cleansing Sprays

Cleansing sprays solve almost all the problems regarding crystal and gemstone cleansing. These sprays eliminate the risk of necklace breakage due to wet threads and also enable you to be in constant contact with your healing gemstone necklace. Surface of gemstones is also not damaged. Soft gems such as Rhodochrosite, Apatite and Fluorite are also not under any risk when cleansed with a cleansing spray.

Different people prefer different methods, but using a cleansing spray to cleanse a gemstone necklace eliminates the risks other methods pose to the physical and therapeutic characteristics of the stones.