Practically, there is no basic difference between a gem and a jewel. The only difference is between their hues and the special effects because of them. Some experts say that jewels have brilliant hues than the gems. But many believe that gems and jewels belong to the same categories.
But since the word jewel has achieved an independent existence, lets learn something more about it.
ORIGIN OF JEWELS: Experts have a difference of opinion regarding the origin of jewels. Researchers tell that many kinds of jewels are manufactured within the body of living organisms from the various actions and reactions of their blood, marrow, flesh etc. Some of the jewels are produced in nature through the reactions and combinations of different chemical compounds. Still some jewels are obtained from specific vegetation, plants and rocks.
Like gems, jewels too can be classified into different categories according to their appearances, effects and the compounds present within them. But before going through their physical classification, lets be familiar with the classification of jewels as has been mentioned in Indian scriptures. Through the origin of jewels as given in Indian mythology appears more like fantasies in the present scientific age, but it may have some degree of truth. Besides, it is relevant here to learn about the origin of jewels as described in mythology for various reasons. Hymns and other descriptions of Indian religious scriptures are more cryptic in nature and need proper deciphering for who knows what is hidden in them. Gemmology is no exception in this context.
According the great astrologer Varahmihir, jewels are of three kinds
1) Jewels of the sky or heaven.
2) Jewels of the earth.
3) Jewels of the nether world.
Thus, in all the three worlds, superior gems are found and the excellent among them are known as jewels. According to mythology, jewels found in heaven are-
1) Kaustubh Mani.
2) Chinta Mani.
3) Syamantak Mani.
4) Rudra Mani.
1) Kaustubh Mani: It has a deep blue colour like a blue lotus and a radiance equal to the sun. It was obtained during the churning of the sea. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu wears Kaustubh Mani in a garland on his chest. This is said to be a powerful jewel and bestows fortune, luxuries as well as invincibility on to its wearer besides extremely beautiful and imposing.
2) Chinta Mani: Name of this jewel is self-explicit. The wearer is freed from all the worries and fretting. It is white in colour and has a brilliant hue. It gives its wearer all kinds of wealth and comforts.
3) Syamantak Mani: It is a common belief that this jewel adorns the necklace of Lord Surya (the sun god). It is said to have a brilliant blue hue that instantaneously blinds the onlooker. If it is taken in darkness, it fills the ambience with day-like light. There is an interesting tale related to this jewel.
In the Dwapar Yuga, Lord Surya had presented the Syamantak Mani to his devotee Prasanjit as he was pleased by his devotion. Prasanjit visited the court of Lord Krishna wearing the jewel. All the courtiers were amazed by the brilliance of this jewel and said to Prasanjit that he did not deserve the jewel, so he should present it to none other than Lord Krishna. But Prasanjit could present the jewel to Lord Krishna and stealthily left the court. Later on, Prasanjit went to the forests on a hunting excursion and was killed by a lion. The lion took the jewel with it but was killed by Jambvant, the ursine aid of Lord Rama. Jambvant took the jewel to his cave and gave it to his children.
Back there in the kingdom, when Prasanjit did not return for many days, suspicious fingers began to point at Lord Krishna. So, Lord Krishna set out to search Prasanjit. Following the footmarks of Prasanjit, the lion and Jambvant, Lord Krishna reached the den of Jambvant and saw Jambvant's children playing with the jewel. As soon as Lord Krishna took the jewel in this possession, Jambvant also arrived there and a fierce duel followed between them. At last Jambvant recognized Lord and presented Him with his daughter Jambvati and also the jewel. Thus recovering the jewel Syamantak, Lord Krishna returned to Dwarka and washed the blemish. It is believed now that Lord Krishna himself wears the jewel Syamantak.
Rudra Mani: Nobody will be unaware of the bounty of Lord Shiva. His costumes as well as ornaments are strange. He wears only tiger's skin and formidable black snakes around his shoulder. The gods presented Lord Shiva with a jewel that came to be known as Rudra Mani. Lord Shiva threatened the jewel among the beads of His rosary. The jewel has a brilliant, golden hue and three stripes on it. Like Lord Shiva, the jewel Rudra Mani is also benevolent in virtues.
Thus, according to Hindu mythology, only four jewels come in the category of heavenly jewels. Now, lets understand something about the jewels that belong to the nether world.
Paatal of Hindu mythology is known by different names such as Nagaloka, Rasatala, Bhugarbh loka etc. According to mythology, the hell is inhabited not by humans but by great snakes as its name Naga loka shows. But different scholars interpret the word Naga differently. According to some Naga does mean snake. But others identify a specific caste of human race with the word Naga. According to them, such creeds are still present in different parts of the world. Bhils, Nagas of India and Eskimos of Greenland are prominent among these creeds. Many of them are well civilized while some are still in the wild, barbarian stage. They also differ from one another in attires and food habits. Similarly humans and demons which existed long ago were in fact human creeds but were different in many aspects. It is said that the followers of Lord Manu became humans while the followers of Lord Danu developed as demons.
Thus, though Naga was a human creed that inhabited the surface of the earth and has a distinct existence. But while discussing about the jewels of the nether worlds, Nagas are regarded as the inhabitants of the hell and Vasuki was their monarch. Some of the prominent and popular jewels of Naga Loka or are the following-
Naga Mani: It is said that this jewel is present on the head of a snake. Its light shows the snake its way even in pitch darkness. When the snake senses some danger, it at once swallows the jewel. But it is said that all the snakes do not have this jewel. Only a few, privileged ones have it on their hoods. Naga Mani is said to be extremely expensive. If someone wishes to get it, he has to face lot of dangers. Thus, those who wish to possess Naga Mani first of all locate the right kind of snake that actually has the jewel. Then they chase the snake day and night continuously. Now, as soon as the snake puts the jewel out, it is covered with a blanket. Not seeing the light of the jewel, the snake naturally feels perplexed and in a way 'commits suicide' by beating its hood on the ground. But this whole venture is very risky.
Only nine kinds of snakes are regarded as the wearer of this mysterious jewel called Naga Mani. It is said that the colour of the jewel exactly matches the colour of the snake and the jewel emits light of the same colour. These nine kinds of the snake are:
1) Black snake.
2) Blue snake.
3) Yellow snake.
4) Gray snake.
5) Red snake.
6) White snake.
7) Green snake.
8) Copper-coloured snake.
9) Milky snake.
According to the scriptures all of these snakes wear jewels that exactly match their body colour. It is also a coincidence that the number of planets in the solar system is also nine. The colours of these planets more or less match with the colours of these jewels. That is why, the practice of wearing a jewel, whose colour exactly matches with that of the planet came into being. But these jewels (Naga Manis) are not easily available. That is why practice of wearing gems and stones in place of the jewels became popular.
Now is the time to take a detailed look at the gems and jewels found on the earth. Though, not innumerable kinds of gems and jewels are found on earth but according to Puranas and other authentic sources following kinds of gems and jewels are prominent:-
1) Manikya (Ruby).
2) Moti (Pearl).
3) Mungaa (Coral).
4) Panna (Emerald).
5) Pukhraj (Yellow Sapphire).
6) Neelam (Blue Sapphire).
7) Heera (Diamond).
8) Gomed (Hassonite).
9) Lahsumiya (Cat's eye).
10) Phiroza (Turquoise).
11) Chandrakant (Moon stone).
12) Ghrit Mani.
13) Tail Mani.
15) Upalak Mani. (Opal)
16) Sphatic Mani. (Rock Crystal)
17) Paras Mani.
18) Ulook Mani.
19) Larvart. (Lapis Mani)
20) Masar Mani.
Lets first understand the scriptural basis of classification of the gems and jewels.
According to Vishnu Purana and Shrimad Bhagwat Mahapurana, Bali, the grandson of Prahlad was a great king of the demons. With a resolution of dethroning Indra as the king of heaven, Bali organized a hundred Ashwamedha Yagyas. On the appeal of Indra, Lord Vishnu decided to stop the hundredth Ashwamedha Yagya of Bali and arrived there in the guise of Vamana (a dwarf Brahmin) and begged him to donate land measuring three steps. In two steps, Lord measures entire earth and heaven. Since there was not room then to put the third step, Bali offered his head for the Lord to put his third step. Thus, Lord Vishnu sent Bali direct to the hell. But with the touch of the Lord's foot, Bali's body converted into gems and stones.
Then, according to another version of the lore, a fierce battle followed between Lord Vishnu and Bali. During the battle, Lord Vishnu broke Bali's body into pieces. Thus different pieces of Bali's body fell at different places and took the shape of gems and jewels. Thus, origin of different gems and jewels is as follows: Ruby: It originated from the blood drops of Bali, hence it has red or pink colour. Pearl: It is believed to have originated from the mind of Bali. Coral: That part of Bali's blood which flowed down to the sea formed the coral. Yellow Sapphire: It originated from the flesh of Bali. Blue Sapphire: It originated from the eyes of the demon King Bali. Diamond: It originated from the pieces of Bali's brain. Hassonite: This gem originated from the fat of the demon king. Cat's Eye: This jewel originated from the Yagyopavit (sacred thread) of Bali. Turquoise: It originated from the nervous system of the demon king Bali. Moonstone: It originated from the radiance of the eye's pupils.
Ghrit Mani: This jewel originated from the pieces of the waist.
Tail Mani: Skin of the king Bali formed this jewel.
Bheeshmak: This gem was produced from the head pieces of Bali.
Upalak Mani: Cough or phlegm of Bali produced this jewel.
Sphatik Mani (Rock Crystal): This jewel was formed from the sweat of Bali.
Paras Mani: Pieces of Bali's heart formed Paras Mani.
Ulook Mani: This jewel was formed from the pieces of Bali's tongue.
Lapis Lazuli: Bali's hair formed this jewel.
Masar Mani: This jewel was produced from the faeces of Bali.
Ishiv Mani: This jewel is believed to have from the semen of King Bali.
Thus in all, eighty four different parts and constituents of the demon king Bali. Of them, only twenty-one are described as gems or jewels due to peculiar brilliance they possess. Of these twenty-one gems, only nine are most famous for their radiance and are hence known as Navaratna.
Thus, there are nine main gems or jewels, twelve common gems and sixty-three ordinary gems which are also known as sub-gems.