A Seduction by Stones: The Traditional Lore of Gems

Offer a libation to the dead while wearing white quartz, and you give the dead the gift of happiness. Rubies will pale in the presence of poison while amber will blacken, and blue sapphires will change color to warn of an enemy's attack. White chalcedony will increase a mother's milk, and citrine will increase prosperity. Opal, often connected with healing diseases of the eye, is known as the thief's stone because of its ability to sharpen the wearer's sight while dimming a pursuer's vision, thus conferring invisibility. Aquamarine is a stone of courage and a protection for sailors, though emerald is also valued by travelers for its ability to calm stormy seas. Topaz not only dispels nightmares but cures madness and cowardice. Diamonds, which have long been a symbol of purity and invincibility, guard the wearer against phantasms, sorcery, snakebite, fire and floods; and turquoise not only protects you from evil but from falling from a horse.

The above bits of lore taken from Vedic, European, and Native American sources are just a tiny sample of what I found when I began researching A Rumor of Gems, a fantasy novel based on the traditional lore of gemstones (Tor Books, June 2005). For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by gems. An animist by nature, I was drawn to them not only for their beauty but for their mystery. As a child reading about birthstones, the idea that certain gems had certain powers seemed a self-evident truth. To me they have always held the promise of magic . . .