Do you think gems have unique meanings? From the Ancient Greeks to the Aboriginals, legends about jewels have been passed down over the years. Take Ancient Greece, for example. Amethysts were thought to have come from the tears of the Greek god Dionysus, while onyx came from Venus’ fingernails. Meanwhile, for the Aboriginals of southern Australia, opals were formed when their ancestral God fell to Earth in a rainbow. But what is the significance behind these legends?

Diplomats, merchants, and even lovers have all taken advantage of gemstones’ “magical” properties. Various gemstones have different values. Moonstones, for example, are thought to be means of communication with the gods. Diamonds have love and health-giving properties, but can be used as poison as well. The nobility use pearl as a symbol of their power and authority. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher and author, Cleopatra dissolved an invaluable pearl in vinegar to impress Marc Anthony. In recent years, interests in gemstones and jewerly have increasingly become more “personal.” Vicki Ambery-Smith, an English jeweler, once created a ring to celebrate one of her clients’ 10th wedding anniversary. The ring was inspired by her customer’s wedding venue, her house, and even her car. In Roman times, recycling heirlooms was common. In fact, English General Oliver Cromwell had the late King Charles I’s crown jewels be recycled into coins with the words “Commonwealth of England.”

Jewelry has been the “ultimate in recycling,” according to London jeweler Esther Eyre. She says that it’s “an interesting conjecture that particles of the gold in modern pieces may have been worn by the Ancient Egyptians.” Jewelry may be simple “accessories,” but for some and even our ancestors, they hold meaning so much more than that.