The Meaning in Colors
Exposing parts or all of the body to near-infra-red light is said to have many health benefits. In some clinics in Europe and Mexico, infra-red is even used to treat cancer. Personally, I do feel reassured when alternative remedies are backed up by science, but I also like to keep an open mind, especially when science seems uninterested or is dismissive out of hand.
Responses to Colors
Context is crucial in imparting meaning to our creations. A simple example of context in the use of the color red, is how a photograph of kids, a cozy fire and a red-suited grandpa figure communicates one thing, while red bedsheets and an attractive couple embracing communicates something altogether different!
Of course, the meaning of colors is not always the same for all people. Even within the same culture, there may be different responses to color, depending upon individual experience.
Yet there are some primal responses to color that seem to transcend culture. It’s highly likely that all cultures see the same essential meaning in colors that come from nature — such as Green and Growth, Red and Blood, Blue and Sky, Yellow and Sun.
Certain colors seem to naturally evoke strong responses. I think of the iridescent colors of the male peacock, and those gorgeously bright but lethal little frogs from the tropics. Those colors speak! The red of ripe apples, the green mold on cheese, communicates something to us.
Perhaps color perception evolved as a survival mechanism — and maybe this is why some psychological effects seem universal. Blue is soothing, but usually not so appetizing. Being able to detect fruit that’s turning blue definitely has survival value. It’s the ripe yellows and reds that suggest delicious food!
Interestingly, the effect of shades and tints of the same color can be dramatic and sometimes even contradictory, so the meaning of colors shift accordingly. Pale yellow is soothing but the deeper shade (“school-bus yellow") alerts us to proceed with caution.
It’s amazing, when you stop to think about it, how colors affect us so much. I read once that some police stations even paint holding cells "drunk-tank pink" because of the color's strong initial calming effect on inmates.
Color in Gemstones
Choice of gemstone often determines the symbolism of a piece of jewelry. Although color symbolism may be expressed by metal, by color enameling — any technique or material available to jewelry makers — when gemstones are present, they will usually dominate the other elements.
In earliest times, when the needs of the spirit were paramount and permeated every aspect of culture and art, the most important characteristic of a gemstone was color and its symbolic meaning. For example, a stone with excellent red color (representing blood or the fires of our sun and thereby life) was more important than whether the gem might be a ruby, garnet or carnelian.
The carnelian is a relatively common gemstone, with an extremely long history of being regarded as highly symbolic or sacred. For example, the deep red variety can look eerily like a drop of blood when cut as a cabochon. This association with blood and life made carnelian precious to the ancients.
But today, among the three red gems mentioned above (ruby, garnet, carnelian), only the ruby is considered to be the precious stone. In our time, the concept “precious” usually just means “very expensive.” We’re a lot more marketplace-oriented now — and as a consequence, we often miss out on a lot that’s just as important to consider.
I don’t feel it’s necessarily in “bad taste” to seek substitutes for gemstones, as long as we're not being fraudulent about it. For one thing, many of the gems in the “official list” of birthstones are simply not affordable for most people. One may have exquisite taste but simply be unable to express it in the act of shopping!
And, you’re going to pay a lot for a ruby even if it’s dull and occluded. Is that really “worth” so much more than a high-quality glass crystal of rich red color and excellent transparency?
Only the very rich can afford high quality rubies with the best clarity and color. Admittedly that’s important if certain amuletic qualities are crucial to you. In Vedic astrology, for example, a gem embodies specific powers of the universe, and is considered useless and even to have negative power the more it’s flawed.
I do love the lore and symbolism of the true gemstones… but my point is that the beauty, effects and vibrations of color alone are quite meaningful in themselves.
For more detail on the meanings in color, please check out my articles on individual colors.