Precious and Semi-Precious Stones

Thursday 29th March

What makes something like a stone, a mineral deposit, a rather large natural crystal either worth millions, or a few pounds or worthless?  Nothing; except our accepted ideas of what is beautiful or rare or desirable.  Years ago I read a story by Solzhenitsyn about prisoners being forced to walk about a thousand kilometers through the frozen tundra to one of the outposts of the Gulag.  The thing that struck me most was that the guards traded with the native Siberian peoples, half Eskimo I suppose they would be.  The guards swapped, or traded empty gallon tin cans for furs.  To the Western world empty cans are thrown away, disposable – as of course to these nomadic peoples the excess skins of animals they had captured and killed for food were.  In the West one of the most desirable items being a fur coat; just waste material for these people, and yet a tin can was invaluable for carrying water or other possessions in.  So the value we put on anything is completely arbitrary and not based on any intrinsic value the object may have.  So a lump of coal, unless we want to burn it is pretty useless, yet whole armies are funded by diamonds, as well as being one of the most desirable objects in our society.  But why is that, is it because diamonds are so hard, so indestructible (unless we burn them) or because they are so rare, or because they are beautiful.  They certainly are beautiful, although quite over-rated I think.  Personally I have always preferred those semi-precious stones like Turquoise or Amethyst or Jet or Amber (I know, not a stone at all).  They are usually much larger and less brilliant, but the colours are so lovely and look better against human flesh, which is the real test.  I also have a habit of beach-combing whenever I am near the sea, picking up some unusual but nicely coloured and smoothly ground stone from the beach.  And each one of these common pebbles is really as beautiful as any diamond that was obtained by sweat and toil in some African mine.

Adrian wrote me a poem – you can find it in Catherines Story :

Jet, Your obsidian net, Captured me right from the start.

Jade, Don’t ever fade, Or it would break my heart.

So precious or semi-precious or just a stone from the beach, they are all beautiful and equally valuable.