While it is often said that jewels tell stories, they do not always have a happy ending. Jewellery and precious stones, in fact, have always been linked to legends, myths, superstitions or popular beliefs that also forebode sad epilogues and terrible tragedies. There are several stories circulating about cursed jewellery that, in passing from one unfortunate owner to another, have left behind them a trail of tragic deaths and terrible misfortunes.

In this regard, for example, the events surrounding the Hope diamond, perhaps the world’s most famous jewel in terms of curses and misfortunes, are well-known: after passing through the hands of countless ill-fated owners, it ended up around Queen Marie Antoinette’s neck, whose tragic death is well-known to all of us, and had been worn by the Princess of Lamballe, who was also massacred by the mob during the French Revolution. These two deaths of illustrious personalities contributed to fuelling the rumours about the cursed jewel, which has finally been donated to the Smithsonian Institute (Washington D.C.) by its last purchaser, where it still belongs nowadays.

There is another interesting story concerning a world-famous Indian jewel, the Koh-I-Noor (“mountain of light” in Persian) diamond. It was donated by the East India Company to the British Crown in 1850, where it still belongs today: should you find yourself visiting the Tower of London, try looking for the gemstone and discover yourself whether it emanates such a terrible power. The diamond, in fact, is tied to a strange legend, according to which all men who have possessed it have fallen from grace, while women are untouched by the curse (Queen Victoria, the first to possess it, has ruled over England for more than 80 years).

Coral, in turn, is by no means immune to the power of superstition and folklore. The evocative power of the coral branch is in fact linked to the myth recounting its origins, narrated by Ovid in his Metamorphoses: according to this legend, coral was born from the drops of blood leaking from Medusa’s torn head which, after being scattered into the sea, solidified and turned into the branched form we are familiar with.

 

The connection between coral and blood is not limited to the myth related to its origins, but has continued to inspire art, sculpture and religion for centuries: if the shape of the coral branch itself resembles the structure of the blood system, in Catholic religion it is considered an apotropaic symbol, which is why it is found around Jesus’s neck in many representations.

However, legends and myths related to coral exceed religious tradition: while for women it has always had, since ancient Greece, a beneficial function, enhancing fertility and milk’s production, during some periods, it has taken on an equally positive function for men too (according to the physician Avicenna, in the Middle Ages, it could be used by men as an aphrodisiac, to ‘cheer up the powers of the heart’). To cut a long story short coral, unlike other types of precious stones that, for some reasons, have been linked to ominous events, seems to have a beneficial power, bringing along passion, fertility and happiness into the lives of those who wear and possess it.

It is often said that things wield the power we allow them to exercise, be it a beneficial or malicious one: this, if we think about our daily lives, happens with all the little amulets or lucky charms we surround ourselves with. We leave it up to the reader to believe or not to the beneficial power of coral, but we will continue to assert that jewellery is so powerful to tell much more than a story or a legend: in gemstones, the personality and vicissitudes of each of us are interwoven with those of past lives, resonating in the echo of a timeless history, in a picture that is perpetually incomplete and, for this very reason, one of a disarming beauty.

 

 

 

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