Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Planetary Gemstones of the Sun

[A ruby crystal, the red variety of the mineral corundum. Rubies are associated with the Sun in many cultures.]  


Although mostly forgotten today, there are ancient connections between astrology and the mineral kingdom. The 20th century lists of birthstones echo a much older belief that each planet and zodiac sign had stones associated with it, used to counter balance difficult astrological aspects or maximize beneficial ones. Confusingly these listings vary but do follow a simple rule: each material has a symbolic connection with the planet and therefore can serve as a vehicle for its energy.


For does not the sun acting upon the earth and within the earth form the metals? Is not gold merely the sun's beams condensed into a yellow solid?”
~Bernard Trevisan, 15th century Italian alchemist~

Both the Sun, and many spiritual beings associated with it, are historically associated with gold. According to the Inca, gold is the sweat of the Sun, and silver, the tears of the Moon. A brilliant, soft, yellow metal, its color resembles light itself. Some speculate that the Latin name for gold aurum, origin of its chemical symbol Au, is related to aurora (“sunrise, goddess of the dawn”). Iron rusts, copper tarnishes, but gold is “incorruptible”, practically indestructible, highly resistant to both corrosion and acids. As the source of life, the Sun is associated with God in many cultures; as the Sun's metal, gold came to represent the divine, immortality, and purity.

Shiny and similar in appearance to gold, especially its alloys brass and bronze, copper is also associated with the Sun, although generally associated with Venus in the West.

  1. Gold.
  2. Other golden metals, like copper and its alloys brass and bronze.


Not only do the planets correspond to certain areas of life, each is traditionally associated with specific animals, plants, and minerals. For example, the 17th century British astrologer William Lily lists the following materials under the rulership of the Sun:

Amongst the elements the Sun has domination over fire and clear shining flames; over metals, he rules gold. Stones include the hyacinth (refers to yellow zircon or other translucent yellow stones), chrysolite (refers to peridot, chrysoberyl, or other translucent greenish yellow stones), adamant (refers to hard minerals, especially diamond), carbuncle (refers to red garnet or other translucent red stones), the etites stone found in eagle's nests (“eagle stone”, a hollow geode that rattles, popular in antiquity for childbirth) the pantaure, if such a stone be the ruby (a legendary shining stone, that collected gems like a magnet attracts iron and protected people from fire).”

(The notes in italics are mine. It can be difficult to correctly identify stones in historic texts, since minerals recognized today as different species were commonly understood as one stone, named by their color. Spinel was often seen as a variety of ruby. Over time, some names also drifted to different stones. The name topaz once meant peridot.)

Other astrological texts also include: heliotrope (Greek “sun turner”, an alternative name for bloodstone, green chalcedony with red spots, mythically associated with sunlight), the “iris” (Greek, “rainbow”, quartz crystals used like a prism, to produce a rainbow from sunlight), and the “eye of the Sun” (unknown, likely a mineral displaying chatoyancy or asterism; inclusions produce a ray effect on its polished surface).

Reading the correspondences:
  1. Yellow minerals, like the color of the Sun: gold, hyacinth (“likely yellow zircon”) and chrysolite (“likely peridot/olivine or chrysoberyl”). Other sources include yellow topaz and chrysoprase (“a green to yellowish green variety of chalcedony”). Although many of these minerals range from yellow to yellowish green, the Greek chryso- root in their names translates as “golden in color”.
  2. Red minerals, like the color of the Sun: carbuncle (“likely red garnet”) and ruby.
  3. Sparkling minerals: diamond. The etites stone (“eagle stone, a rattling geode”) were also supposed to glitter.
  4. Minerals physically or mythically associated with light: quartz crystals, used as a prism to produce rainbows, and heliotrope (“bloodstone”), used in folklore to look at the Sun safely or change the color of its light. Chrysolite (“likely peridot/olivine or chrysoberyl”) was associated with sunlight and the carbuncle (“likely red garnet”) was believed to glow with its own light, like a hot coal.
  5. Minerals that display rays or eye like patterns: both shapes are cross culturally associated with the Sun. The text likely means the assorted minerals that display either a cat's eye (chrysoberyl, quartz, tourmaline, etc.) or star effect (corundum).

And you, if you can't leave your country, you could go into yourself,
and become a ruby mine, open to the gifts of the sun.”

There is a long tradition of using gems in India to counter balance problems with both the natal chart and transiting planets. Large, flawless stones, usually set in specific metals are prescribed. Each planet has a primary gemstone, if one of sufficient size can not be found or is too expensive, then an alternative in a similar color is used. The primary stone of Surya (the Sun) is ruby and its substitutes are also transparent and red: red garnet, red spinel, and rubellite (the red variety of tourmaline).

Early geology theorized that gemstones and metals gestated underground like babies, their parents being mother Earth and the planets. Many cultures believed that rubies ripened underground, under the influence of the Sun. Like the alchemical process of turning lead into gold, this transformation became a symbol of mystic union with God.
  1. Ruby and other transparent red gemstones: red garnet, red spinel, and rubellite (the red variety of tourmaline).
Astrological texts rely mostly on gemstones known in antiquity. Many new minerals have been discovered, others have become readily available, and familiar ones have turned out to be more than one species. Many other minerals now have associations with the Sun:
  1. Amber: Not technically a mineral but a fossilized tree resin, it has ancient associations with the Sun but usually ends up in listings of plants, not stones.
  2. Sunstone: A name given to several different minerals over time, now used for aventurine feldspar, a sparkling reddish mineral, related to moonstone.
  3. Citrine: The golden yellow variety of quartz.
  4. Yellow Tiger's Eye: A pseudomorph variety of quartz, typically golden brown in color. Major deposits were discovered in the 1800's. It is both yellow and displays chatoyancy, like other minerals historically associated with the Sun.
For an introduction to the properties of minerals, known historically as the "hidden virtues" of gemstones, see:

The Hidden Virtues of Gemstones

© 2012, C. L. Matthews
[Image Source: Public domain, Wikipedia Commons]

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