for women during the medieval period varied greatly between time
periods. Some periods are known for their beautiful jewellery
but at other times, ornamentation appears to be more often attached
directly to items of clothing being worn- belts, jewelled bands,
studded or embroidered clothes. Household inventories too, seem
to reflect this. Which gemstone was selected for what piece of
jewellery was an important consideration. Particular stones were
believed to be good for particular things.
Shown at right is the head of St
Adelheid from 1260 which shows a magnificent crown, brooch and
cloak clasps. At many times, crowns, coronets and jewelled items
were worn alone or as part of elaborate headdresses. These can
be seen on the HEADWEAR
The jewellery page is divided into
Marriage brooches, pilgrim badges & cloak fasteners
Necklaces, pendants and collars
The church-approved fashion accessory
Wearing your holy relics
Jean de Jandun, an early 14th century
writer comments on items of jewellery available at the markets
on the bank of the river Seine. He writes:
On display here were all the
objects to adorn the different parts of the human body: for
the head, crowns, chaplets, and bonnets, ivory combs for the
hair, mirrors for looking at oneself, belts for the waist, purses
to suspend from them, gloves for the hands, necklaces for the
breast, and other things of this type which I cannot list because
I lack the Latin terms for these objects.
Gemstones used in jewellery were endowed with special meanings-
some medicinal and others representing virtues. These work against
the bare skin or needed to be encased as each stone required.
Shown at right is a beautiful ring brooch dated between 1250 and
1300 and of English or French manufacture. It is set with sapphires
German nun, Hildegard Von Bingham
wrote extensively about the properties of stones and their values
in her treatise, Physica. She also writes what each of
them is to be used for and for what afflictions they are best
suited. Below is a list of gemstones and their medieval uses although
they must be prepared properly to be of any medicinal use.
Agate: defeats spider or
vermin bites, promotes prudence and judiciousness, cures epilepsy,
helps lunatics, deters thieves from the house.
Alabaster: No use. Do not use.
Amber: protection against tonsillitis.
Amethyst: spots on the face, tumors, spiderbites, prevents
Beryl: poison, tranquillity.
Carbuncle: wards off spirits.
Carnelian: cures nosebleed.
Chalcedony: gives tranquillity, confidence when speaking.
Chrysoprase: defeats poison, epilepsy cure, devil possessions.
Chrysolite: beats fevers, strengthens the heart and knowledge.
Crystal: Improves blurry eyes, scrofula cure, heart or belly
Diamond: gives purity
and virtue, defeats malice, cures palsy, jaundice, repels the
Emerald: annuls the effects of poison, heartache, stomach
ache, increases riches, protects from gout, epilepsy and eye
Garnet: strengthens the heart.
Jacinth: prevents fogginess of the eyes.
Jasper: cures deafness, snotty nose, wards off bad dreams,
Ligure: stomach ailments, difficult urination cure.
Limestone: to dispel worms.
Magnesian (magnet): defeats madness, noxious humours
Mother-of-pearl: gives poison and weakness. Do not use.
Onyx: good for eyes, stomach, sadness.
Pearls: Purity. Fevers and head ailments.
Prasine: cures fever, bruise
Red Coral: protection against magic spells.
Ruby: resists poison, repels plague, exulted love, protection
from tempests, reduces the temptations of the flesh.
Sapphire: (blue) marital chastity, treats stys, gives knowledge,
removes wrath, removes love when not desired, garners esteem
from a lord, expels envy, comforts the heart, aids the detection
Sard: restores hearing, promotes safe childbirth
Sardonyx: promotes understanding, removes illiteracy,
Topaz: poison teller, good for eyes, fevers, spleen or
is a leper. Good virtue.
Turquoise: prevents danger.
Pearls were used to great effect
for decoration of clothing but at earlier time periods it was
considered unsafe to wear them against the bare skin because products
of the sea were believed to be unclean or tainted because they
were composed from the sludge of rivers and the sea.