Melikian-Chirvani, The Red Stones of Light in Iranian Culture. I. Spinels

“Book of Kings,” 14th c. manuscript painting
of Ardashir wearing the crown of Ancient Iran.
A. S. Melikian-Chirvani
“The Red Stones of Light in Iranian Culture.”

The quest of light, the symbol of divinity in Zoroastrianism and the symbol of God in Islam, played a hitherto unrecognized role in the perception of precious stones and their selection when making jewellery, small size vessels for the king, and regalia of every kind, from crowns to royal seals. Among the red stones admired because they evoked the light of dusk, spinels, as well as rubies, were most avidly sought after and celebrated in Iranian literature, from Persian poetry and historical chronicles to gemmological treastes written in Arabic or Persian. In poetry, for example, spinels were compared to both blood and its substitute, wine, for their color and radiance, referring to the symbolism of light, perceived in Iranian thinking as a sparkling flow. Thus, Omar Khayyam: “Wine is molten spinels and the decanter is the mine / The shalllow cup is the body and the wine in it, its soul.”

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