Crystals have been revered for thousands of years for their decorative, healing, and protective properties. Amber beads have been found in graves over 8,000 years old and a calcite mirror was created over 30,000 years ago. One of the earliest written accounts of the use of crystals is in the Bible.
The breastplate of the High Priest is described in Exodus. The Hebrew word for breastplate actually means “pouch,” so Aaron would have been wearing a linen bag around his neck and chest, with 12 crystals that represented the 12 tribes of Israel, and two special holy objects, the Urim and Thummin, which some scholars believe to have been meteorites and which, according to the biblical account, were designed by God to be used as an “oracle” to ascertain his will and divine the course the future would take.
Translation problems make it difficult to know exactly which crystals were used, but they included sardius, probably Sardonyx, a stone of authority, strength, and protection; Topaz, one of the ancient stones of abundance; Turquoise, another protective stone that enhances spiritual attunement; and Amethyst, still used today by bishops in the church to show their spiritual authority. The stones were, according to God’s instructions, to be set in gold and inscribed with the names of the tribes to show they were under divine protection. In other words, they were creating amulets, something that was extremely popular in Egypt.
The use of crystals in Egypt goes back to at least 4500 BCE and may also have influenced the Israelites who, at the time of the Exodus, had recently left Egypt to wander in the desert. Crystals in Egypt were valued for decorative, medical, and spiritual purposes.
Tutankhamun’s funerary mask has a Lapis Lazuli band around his Snow Quartz and Obsidian eyes. Lapis was one of the most sacred and spiritual stones. An ancient Egyptian text states that “Lapis is the god, Amun, and the god is Lapis.” Its function is to open spiritual sight, a useful attribute on the journey to the Otherworld, which Obsidian would facilitate. In the headdress are set Turquoise and Carnelian, both popular for protective amulets. This mask was for more than decoration—it had a magical function to guide and guard the young Pharaoh on his way home to the stars and to ensure a good rebirth.
The traditions associated with crystals in Egypt moved into Greece, where Pliny the Elder wrote a treatise on precious stones (based on that of an earlier Greek writer, Theophrastus). These traditions continued to be handed on, along with traditions from countries such as India, to which were added local myths. In Germany, for instance, miners in the Middle Ages called Cobalto-calcite kobald because they believed a goblin lived in the stone. Nowadays, Cobaltocalcite is considered a beneficent stone that opens the heart and fills it with love.