the egyptian jewelry-maker did not use precious stone; what he held the most valuable the modern world would consider at best only semiprecious. it is, perhaps, even more surprising that some of the most characteristic and pleasing effects were obtained using man-made materials, such as glazed composition and glass in imitation of semi-precious stones. furthermore, most of the materials used were chosen not just because their colors created a particular effect, but because colors for the egyptians had an underlying symbolism or amulet significance. indeed, in the case of funerary jewelry, certain materials were strictly prescribed for the magical properties of their coloring. thus chapter 156 of the book of the dead required the amulet in the form of the girdle tie of isis, placed at the throat of the mummy, to be made of red jasper, whose blood-like coloring would enhance the words of the spell: ï¿½you have your blood, isis; you have your power.ï¿½
green was the color of new vegetation, growing crops and fertility, hence of new life, resurrection even. it was, in particular, the color of the papyrus plant, which in hieroglyphs actually wrote the word wadj, meaning 'to flourish' or 'be healthy'. wadj was also the name for the emerald-green mineral malachite when it was employed as egypt's principal green pigment for painting and as the main constituent of green eye make-up. but the green stone most favored by the egyptians was turquoise -mefkat- whose egyptian name in the late dynastic period was used as a synonym for 'joy' and 'delight'. apart from turquoise (and green glazed composition and glass in imitation of it), the principal green stones employed by egyptian lapidaries were green jasper, green feldspar (also known as amazon stone), prase, chrysoprase, olivine, serpentine and, in the graeco-roman period, beryl and peridot.
dark blue was the color of the all-embracing, protective night sky, of lapis lazuli- and of the deep-blue glazed composition and glass made to imitate it. curiously enough, khesbed (hsbd), the principal word for lapis lazuli, was used in the late dynastic period, like the word for turquoise, as a synonym for 'joy' or 'delight'. it is difficult to believe that the egyptians could not really distinguish between blue and green, yet the suggestion that the usage arose because of the linking over a long period of the materials turquoise and lapis lazuli is not very convincing.
red was the colour of blood with all its connotations of energy, dynamism, power, even life itself. but it was also the colour of the evil-tempered desert-god set, patron of disorder, storms and aridity, and murderer of his brother osiris. this curious dichotomy is reflected in the fact that khenmet (hnmt), the word for red jasper, was derived from the verb hnm, 'to delight', but cornelain, with its orange-red hue, was considered an ill-omened stone and in the late dynastic period its name, herset (hrst), also meant 'sadness'. sard was the third red stone employed by the egyptian lapidary, and from the new kingdom onwards all three could be imitated by red glass and glazed composition.
the egyptian jewelry-maker made use of an amazing variety of stones, minerals, metals, man-made materials and animal products. most were obtained locally in the hills and deserts within egypt's boundaries and from creatures which inhabited the nile valley and surrounding areas, but some, most notably lapis lazuli and silver, always had to be imported from beyond egypt's farthest frontiers.
examples from the materials used by egyptian jewelry makers :
amethyst (a translucent quartz (silicon dioxide)),
beryl :a transparent or translucent yellowish-green aluminum- beryllium-silicate with a glassy sheen;
breccia is a sedimentary rock in which angular white fragments are set irregularly into a red-colored matrix.
feldspar or amazon stone is an opaque, green or blue-green potassium-aluminum-silicate,