A History of Sapphires in Culture: Rudolf II

Throughout time, sapphires have been revered for their beauty, their strength and durability, and the perceived powers of wellness and protection. In a celebration of the special cultural relevance of sapphires, we have gathered together some of our favorite stories to share of historical sapphires through all cultures. Part VI continues Rudolf II.

Rudolf II – 1552–1612

The court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was filled with alchemists, lapidaries, and artists who wielded considerable power.  Although Rudolf II was not a good leader, he was reportedly a decent painter and lapidary.

He was also taken with mysticism and assembled a league of astrologers and physicians to counsel him on the healing and occult powers of gemstones.  His extensive collection of gemstones and exotica included mermaid teeth, unicorn horns, phoenix feathers, and nails from Noah’s Ark.

Rudolf II’s collection was maintained by a famous mineralogist and physician, Anselmus Boetius de Boodt.  De Boodt authored one of the most influential mineralogy texts ever written, the “Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia.”  In this major opus, de Boodt described about 600 minerals, and provided information on their properties, imitations, and medical applications. As for Rudolf II, De Boodt tells us:

“The emperor loves precious stones not as a means of enhancing his own dignity and majesty, whose greatness requires no external support, but to contemplate the greatness and ineffable power of God in the stones, which unite the beauty of the whole world in such tiny bodies.”