The Bloodstone a Symbol of Courage and Wisdom

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       Bloodstone or heliotrope, is the most attractive of the green varieties of quartz known as jasper. This curious mineral contains spots of red jasper that resemble drops of blood, to which it owes its name.

       Bloodstone is found in India, Australia, Brazil, and in unimportant quantities in Europe and Scotland. The finest specimens, however, come from India from whence the present-day supply is almost entirely derived.

       Although bloodstone is a very beautiful and interesting mineral, it is not as widely used in modern jewelry as in the past. Aquamarine, the alternate birth-stone for those who were born in the month of March, is generally preferred by women, and bloodstone now finds its most extensive use as a gem for men. Hardy and tough, it is well adapted to use where it must withstand rough treatment, and it is often found in men’s rings, plainly polished, or bearing crests, monograms, or similar carvings.

polished bloodstone

       Bloodstone was well known to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, and many seals, cups, small vases and statuettes worked from this substance have descended to us from them. It was the material especially preferred by the artists of the Middle Ages for their reliefs of sacred subjects. A mighty recommendation for bloodstone as the most appropriate vehicle for such carvings, was the tradition that it owed its origin to the stones that were lying under the Cross on Calvary. These, it was said, were stained by the Savior’s blood, and converted into imperishable monuments of His sufferings. The same reason gave it favor with the artists of the Renaissance, besides the more practical recommendation that in their representations of crucifixions and martyrdoms, the red spots lent themselves readily to their skill for expressing the blood-dripping wounds and lacerations of their subjects. It is said that the first

work that brought the greatest artist among the gem-engravers, Matteo del Nassaro, into notice, was a Descent from the Cross done in bloodstone with so much art that the sanguine spots exactly depicted the blood trickling from the wounds of the Savior.

rough bloodstone


       The specific name for bloodstone, heliotrope (preferred by mineralogists), is derived from Greek words meaning “sunturning,’’ and refers to an old belief that the stone, when immersed in water, would change the image of the sun to blood-red. The water was also reputed to boil, and the experimental vessel containing the weird material to upturn.

       A thirteenth century treatise upon gems tells us that: “A bat, represented upon a heliotrope or bloodstone, gives the wearer power over demons and helps incantations.” Bloodstone was believed to be a sovereign remedy for hemorrhages of all kinds, as well as for all inflammatory diseases. It was thought to exercise a calming influence, to remove anger and discord, to preserve the faculties and bodily health of the wearer, to bring him consideration and respect, and to guard him from deception. It was also said, “Whoever bears this stone, which is a gem, and pronounces the name engraved upon it, will find all doors open to him, while bonds and stone walls will be rent asunder.”


       While very fine examples of carving in bloodstone are to be found in many gem collections, the finest specimen of this art is a head of Christ, so executed that the red spots of the stone most realistically resemble drops of blood. This gem is now in the French Royal Collection in Paris. Second to this is a head of Christ which is in the Field Columbian Museum, Chicago. 

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