Navratna Jewelry - When the Cosmos Align
Navratna jewelry is the most widespread jewelry form to come out of India. While it is discussed at length in the Vishnu Purana from before the 11th century A.D., it is also spoken of in the scriptures of other Asian countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapor, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
- Who: Navratna jewelry
- What: Jewelry that sports the following nine stones in clockwise order with a ruby at the center: diamond, pearl, red coral, hessonite, blue sapphire, cat's eye, yellow sapphire, and emerald
- When: There is scriptural evidence for Navratna from before the 11th century in India
- Where: Began in India and spread to the rest of Asia
- Variations: Each Asian country that has Navratna may have their own take on certain specificities (weight, size, and style)
- Process: Stones are inserted into a gold, silver, or metal base.
Navratna literally means in Sanskrit "nine gems" and as such each and every piece of Navratna jewelry contains the following nine auspicious stones (clockwise from the top of the piece): diamond, pearl, red coral, hessonite, blue sapphire, cat's eye, yellow sapphire, and emerald with a ruby always in the center. These stones are ordered on each jewelry piece the same way each of the celestial deities they represent are situated within the temple. Together these stones are considered to be an amulet that protects the wearer.
Each stone is chosen to depict the deity of a celestial body in our solar system to give the wearer astrological balance. The ruby is always in the center because the solar system revolves around the sun; to move it would upset the natural balance of our world. Each of the colors of the stones are the prismatic colors (if you refracted white light through a prism) and represent the seven cosmic rays of the universe. It is believed that when each celestial body absorbs sunlight, it radiates one of these colored rays, which, when transmitted across the solar system, affect the lives of every living creature.
As well, each celestial deity is said to guard one direction on the compass rose (the center, the four cardinal points, and the four intermediary points). Therefore the wearer of the Navratna is protected from evil on all sides. Hindu temples, also, are often built against the template of a Navratna medallion to promote balance and cosmic awareness.
It is believed that the concept of the 9 celestial bodies impersonated by the 9 stones of the Navratna came out of ancient Mesopotamia, where it existed before the 3000 B.C.E.
Navratna jewelry is considered culturally significant to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs. It even has a special place in Thai tradition where it is considered the symbol of the king. There is also an important award given by him called "Noppharat Ratchawaraphon," or "The Ancient Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems." It even comes with its own specially color-coded regalia. Other Asian countries as well assign it certain significance, often a royal one.
Regardless of which country you're in, they all maintain that the stones used in Navratna jewelry have to be untarnished and pure, otherwise they lose their beneficial value. Also, Navratna pieces have to be worn a certain way with the blue sapphire (Saturn) of the ring pointing toward the body (women should wear it on their left ring fingers and men on their right). They may differ, though, on a series of other gem values - like that they have to be touching skin or be a certain size and weight.
In India, Navratna is sometimes worked in to Kundan pieces. These pieces are gorgeous, skillfully made, and colorful because of all the gemstones.
While it is not common for brides to wear a whole Navratna set, the occasional pendant might be worn for luck. Hindu weddings are already very tied up in horoscopes and auspicious dates based on star charts that a Navratna charm will not do any harm in making sure your wedding day is as lucky as it can be.
Sources: Wikipedia and Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht
Photos courtesy of Tanishq and Art Karat