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Amazonite in pre-Colombian South and Central America

South America is a region so rich in deposits of spectacular gemstones that its history and heritage in jewellery making go back for thousands of years.

From Amethyst to Emerald, semi-precious stones have been mined there since ancient civilisations occupied the lands, but the South and Central American influence of one particular gemstone has since spread around the world like no other. Amazonite conjures up images of one of the most famous rivers in the world, the mighty Amazon, and its appearance is as responsible for that as the story behind it.

What is Amazonite?

Amazonite is a rare and highly sought after gemstone that is a member of the abundant feldspar group of minerals found in the earth's crust. It is a beautiful blue-green semi-precious stone whose name has led many to attribute its origins to the wrong region of the world.

It is believed to have been given the name Amazonite by the German mineralogist and professor, Johann Friedrich August Breithaupt (1791-1873), who found a deposit of it in a location close to the river, but not actually in the Amazon River Basin itself where many believe is its original source. It is, in fact, found most abundantly in the Ilmensky Mountains in western Russia, but it can indeed be found in South America and has a rich history with the continent that many believe could date back to the 10th century BC.

Why was Amazonite so popular in pre-Colombian South and Central America?

As with many of the world's gemstones, it is the very colour of Amazonite that is thought to have made such an impression on the ancient civilisations of South and Central America.

It was prized for its protective qualities by the much-admired semi-mythical female warriors of the Amazon, the Amazonians, who lived during the Bronze Age. The stone was believed to have the power to protect those who carried it on their person, so the warriors used to adorn their shields with it to feel safer in battle.

Spiritual beliefs maintained its ability to instil confidence in the wearer and made South American people more diplomatic by merging the feminine with the masculine in their characters, allowing them to see every side to an argument. This was one of the main reasons why it was used so frequently in South American jewellery, from rings to necklaces for all walks of life.

What was Amazonite used for in pre-Colombian South and Central America?

Brazilian legend has it that green stones were presented as gifts to visitors in order to make them feel welcome and safe in their new environments. It is not historically proven that these stones were Amazonite stones and, since it still has not been mined from Amazonian grounds, it is more likely that they were actually Emerald or Jade. Emerald is incredibly common and popular in Colombia today and it can often bear a striking resemblance to Amazonite in colour, so the two stones have often been mistaken for one another.

In the pre-Colombian days of South and Central America, Amazonite was utilised not only in costume jewellery, but also in medicine, since it was believed that the 'Stone of Courage' and the 'Stone of Hope', as it has otherwise been known, brought great powers of protection against illnesses and healing of sores and blisters. It has been more than a charming piece of jewellery to many a civilisation thanks to the high spiritual regard in which South Americans held it.

Where else was Amazonite popular?

The myth that Amazonite originated from Brazil's Amazon River Basin has led to some confusion around the historic uses of it, but it has been incredibly popular for remarkably similar reasons in societies all over the globe. The Ancient Egyptians, for instance, revered the gemstone and are believed to have obtained it from Russia's deposits in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, but nobody really knows quite how they did so!

Amazonite at Monica Vinader

We source the finest Amazonite gemstones with unique colours and inclusions in every cut, so you know you'll be getting a stone with character and quality from Monica Vinader.

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