Most-cherished gemstones in the medieval arab world

Zohar Amar, Efraim Lev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the medieval Arab world, gemstones were used as ornaments, set in jewellery, seals, and amulets, and also were investments and status symbols. As a result of the Arab conquests and their access to new regions, the distribution and use of gemstones underwent substantial changes. Our research pieces together information regarding the production, use, trade, tradition and cultural value of gemstones from early Arabic sources; this information is compared with material found in ancient Greek and Roman sources and also European sources from the medieval period. The most valued stones were corundum, diamond, emerald and pearl. Other stones, such as turquoise, carnelian, garnet, onyx, lazurite and malachite, were less expensive and therefore more popular and common among the middle classes. Jasper, amethyst, and crystal were still cheaper and even more commonly-owned. In this article, we have chosen to present in detail the stories of two of the most exotic, expensive, and therefore most interesting gemstones: the diamond and the corundum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-401
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Asiatic Society 2017.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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