The following excerpt is from Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation by Priscilla Throop. Hildegard von Bingen, who was canonized as a saint in 2012, lived from 1098-1179 CE. The segment below provides an overview of her beliefs about powers ascribed to gemstones. I hope you enjoy this historical perspective as much as I did.
Every stone contains fire and moisture. The devil abhors, detests, and disdains precious stones. This is because he remembers that their beauty was manifest on him before he fell from the glory God had given him, and because some precious stones are engendered from fire, in which he receives his punishment. By the will of God, the devil was vanquished by the fire into which he fell, just as he is vanquished by the fire of the Holy Spirit when humans are snatched from his jaws by the first breath of the Holy Spirit.
Precious stones and gems arise in the Orient, in areas where the sun’s heat is very great. From the hot sun, mountains there have heat as powerful as fire. The rivers in those areas always boil from the sun’s great heat. Whence at times an inundation of those rivers bursts forth and ascends those scorching mountains. The mountains, burning with the sun’s heat, are touched by those rivers. Froth, similar to that produced by hot iron or a hot stone when water is poured over it, exudes from the places where the water touches the fire. This froth adheres to that place and, in three or four days, hardens into stone.
Once the inundation has ceases and the waters have returned to the river bed, the pieces of froth dry up. They dry from the sun’s heat and take their colors and powers in accordance with the time of day and the temperature. Drying and hardening, they become precious stones and fall onto the sand, just like flaking fish scales. When they flood again the rivers life up many of the stones, carrying them to other countries where they are later discovered by human beings. The mountains, where so many and such large stones have sprung up in this way, shine like the light of day.
And so, precious stones are born from fire and water; whence they have fire and moisture in them. they contain many powers and are effective for many needs. many things can be done with them—but only good, honest actions, which are beneficial to human beings; not activities of seduction, fornication, adultery, enmity, homicide and the like, which tend toward vice and which are injurious to people. The nature of these previous stones seeks honest and useful effects and rejects people’s depraved and evil uses, in the same way virtues cast off vices and vices are unable to engage with virtues.
Some stones do not originate from these mountains and are not of the same nature, but arise from other, useless things. Through them, with God’s permission, it is possible for good and bad things to happen.
God had decorated the first angel as if with precious stones. Lucifer, upon seeing them shine in the mirror of the Divinity, took knowledge from them and recognized that God wished to do many wondrous things. his mind was exalted with pride, since the beauty of the stones which covered him shone in God. he though that he could do deeds both equal to and greater than God’s. And so his splendor was extinguished. But, just as God restored Adam to a better part, He sent neither the beauty nor the powers of those precious stones to perdition, but willed that they would be held in honor and blessing on earth and used for medicine.