Modern Living: Jewelry: Back to Design

In the most ancient civilizations, jewelers made little use of precious stones—and when they did, they used them to embellish essentially sculptural designs. It was only in later times that gems themselves became jewelry's raison d'être: partly because craftsmen learned to cut them to reveal their undeniable beauty, partly because they were believed to possess and emanate magical powers. As late as the 15th century, emeralds were prescribed as cures for epilepsy, dysentery and failing eyes, as guards against evil spirits and sure protectors of chastity. By the 20th century, says English Jewelry...

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