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I am not a great lover of gold jewellery – if it looks pretty, I will wear it, with no concern for whether it’s made from gold or silver or wood and whether it’s set with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires or simple bits of coloured glass. This is much to the despair of my mother-in-law, who is a firm believer in the Indian doctrine of jewels being worn not for aesthetics or vanity but because of the impact they have on the wearer – in terms of health, wealth, luck and beauty.

Indian, beauty, gemstones, diamond, emerald

She is not alone in her thought process. For millions of years, Indian women (and men!) have called upon the “science of stones and metals” to chart their destiny. For example, it’s sacrosanct that a girl should wear a gold necklace at all times, almost from the time she is born. It’s said that gold is cooling, acts as a tonic, imparts vitality to the body, helps eyesight and subdues the deranged actions of kapham, vatam and pittam. When a gold ornament rests against the skin, it passes on these benefits to the body. Also, my grandmother always held that wearing a necklace right from childhood would make the neck slender and graceful – the heavier the necklace, the more slender the neck.

And then there are the stones – each of them with a special symbolism or attribute attached to them:

  • Emeralds and diamonds enhance the libido (hence widows are usually not allowed to wear these stones)
  • When worn at night, a diamond ensures good sleep and keeps nightmares at bay
  • A good quality emerald will change colour if it comes in contact with poison. That’s why the Mughal rulers used to drink their alcohol from emerald glasses (sigh! the decadence)
  • Alcohol served in emerald glasses will not leave you feeling inebriated or hungover (trying this at the next party if I can find an actual emerald glass. What are the chances?)
  • Cat’s Eye reduces the blood sugar level in diabetics
  • A blue sapphire can cure baldness
  • A white sapphire enhances the wearer’s sex appeal
  • Wearing a zircon makes your complexion flawless
  • Soaking a zircon in water overnight and then drinking that water will cure infertility

However, remember that to be effective it must be a good quality stone (Indian jewellers would classify gems into ‘castes’) and be set in such a way that it is in direct contact with the skin at all times. So, which sparkling gem will you wear today?

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