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 five
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
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 and garnets.
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 drunkenness.
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 ailment
Diamond: gives purity and
virtue, defeats malice, cures palsy, jaundice, repels the devil.
Emerald: annuls the effects of poison, heartache, stomach ache,
increases riches, protects from gout, epilepsy and eye problems.
Garnet: strengthens the heart.
Jacinth: prevents fogginess of the eyes.
Jasper: cures deafness, snotty nose, wards off bad dreams, protects
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 of witchcraft.
Sard: restores hearing, promotes safe childbirth
Sardonyx: promotes understanding, removes illiteracy, relieves
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.