Getting gems in Mythic Europe

I've been wondering about one thing. It seems that gems are very usefull when making magical items, as they can hold the largest amounts of magic (and they look great too!). But how did one go about getting a gem in the 13th century? I don't know alot about gems, but take jade, for example. That's from Asia, if I remember correctly. And in modern times, aquamarine is mined in Brazil, India and Pakistan. Would gems like these (and I'm sure there are other examples too) appear in Europe in the 13th century at all?

By the way, for a great resource on gems (for those of us who likes doing the research), check out :slight_smile: Loads of nice pictures and background on gemstones.


Jade is found world wide. Minerals in general are not as limited in distribution as plants or animals (there are a few rare ones that are only found in a single location but chances are you've never heard of them). That's not to say that you can find everything everyplace but that in an area the size of Europe you can probably find a source for most gemstones. Sadly my knowledge of European regional geology is close to non-existent so I couldn't tell you where you might find anything.

I believe that in 13th century Europe (in fact 13th century everyplace to the best of my knowledge) the technology to carve and facet gems did not exist. Gems that commonly assume a crystal form such as garnet were more commonly used than the carved gems of today.

warning some technical jargon ahead

There did exist ways to carve gems. These began with softer gems and lapping away the unwanted parts. Over time this evolved to include harder materials. Diamonds where shapped by usings a specially made wooden holder and rubing another diamond against it in a process called bruting.

Bottom right side has a good example of possibilities

and this has some good history

And just because I found this interesting...

In medieval western and middle Europe, most precious stones came indeed from the east. As - because of their many attributed symbolic values - they were latest since Bernward and Suger of St. Denis highly sought after to decorate church vessels, crosses, reliquiaries etc., they are usually not for sale to anybody without high-reaching noble connections or direct ties to traders with eastern people. AFAICS it is an SG decision whether local Redcaps can procure through the Thebes, Transsylvanian and Levante Tribunals certain precious stones for magi, and what they might charge.

During the middle ages even hard precious stones could be polished (employing dust of still harder minerals), but not cut for facetting. So they look like today's stones in cabochon cut, but usually less regular. Carving figures into agate or carneol - glyptics - is probably what Agnar is referring to: expertise of this was lost in the 4th century AD in Europe and in the 7th century AD in Persia, not to be retrieved during the - historical -middle ages. What a Verditius might come up with, if confronted with something like the Gemma Augustea, is an entirely different matter, however.

To get an idea how hard it was to find a precious stone of specific type and size when needed, it helps to look at medieval ceremonial jewelry like crowns and reliquiaries: very often glass had to be used to replace stones gone missing, or even to provide counterparts to some precious stones required for symmetry.

Kind regards,


all of the discussion so far shows that
a) it was possible to facet gems to get a better sparkle, but it was very difficult and time-consuming, and the results might well lack the perfect symmetry which we expect in a modern cut-gem ... all this because there was no gutting technology (nor the understanding behind it) only grinding and polishing.

b) magic can do better than this

I'm not going to suggest any way that magi can produce modern-style cut gems 'cos that also depends on an understanding of refraction & optics, as well as the difficult tap-and-fracture cut technique.
However, magic can grind and polish (Rego, not Perdo - Perdo only makes worse), with considerable accuracy, and is better at regularity than mundane methods - various magics re "duplicates", much more easily that relying on raw Finesse...
Further, when mention is made of using glass duplicates to fill out spaces for symmetry, magic can easily make physical duplicates - either Creo (with Vis - ouch!) or Rego shaping magic again.

So ... one of the distinguishing feature of the "show-off" costumes of magi (for ceremonies etc) could be Gems! Flashing jewels and sparkling light (I'm not talking tasteful here, guys - heck, if someone suggested the magical equivalent of flashing LEDs to many magi, they'd leap at them...)

Muto also allows for do-overs (Rock of Viscid Clay), something which is unavailable to mundane craftsmen. Filling out gaps also becomes trivially easy.