Online Encyclopedia

HYACINTH, or JACINTH

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 25 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HYACINTH, or JACINTH, in mineralogy, a variety of zircon (q.v.) of yellowish red colour, used as a gem-stone. The hyacinthus of ancient writers must have been our sapphire, or blue corundum, while the hyacinth of modern mineralogists may have been the stone known as lyncurium (AuyKOU;iiov). The Hebrew word leshem, translated ligure in the Authorized Version (Ex. xxviii. 19), from the X yuprov of the Septuagint, appears in the Revised Version as jacinth, but with a marginal alternative of amber. Both jacinth and amber may be reddish yellow, but their identification is doubtful. As our jacinth (zircon) is not known in ancient Egyptian work, Professor Flinders Petrie has suggested that the leshem may have been a yellow quartz, or perhaps agate. Some old English writers describe the jacinth as yellow, whilst others refer to it as a blue stone, and the hyacinthus of some authorities seems undoubtedly to have been our sapphire. In Rev. xx. 20 the Revised Version retains the word jacinth, but gives sapphire as an alternative. Most of the gems known in trade as hyacinth are only garnets—generally the deep orange-brown hessonite or cinnamon-stoneand many of the antique engraved stones reputed to be hyacinth are probably garnets. The difference may be detected optically, since the garnet is singly and the hyacinth doubly refracting; moreover the specific gravity affords a simple means of diagnosis, that of garnet being only about 3.7, whilst hyacinth may have a density as high as 4.7. Again, it was shown many years ago. by Sir A. H. Church that most hyacinths, when examined by the spectroscope, show a series of dark absorption bands, due perhaps to the presence of some rare element such as uranium or erbium. Hyacinth is not a common mineral. It occurs, with other zircons, in the gem-gravels of Ceylon, and very fine stones have been found as pebbles at Mudgee in New South Wales. Crystals of zircon, with all the typical characters of hyacinth, occur at Expailly, Le Puy-en-Velay, in Central France, but they are not large enough for cutting. The stones which have been called Compostella hyacinths are simply ferruginous quartz from Santiago de Compostella in Spain. (F. W. R.*)
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