The Alchemy of Silver Jewelry and the Number 7 – Part I 7 Metals of Antiquity

Today, if someone is asked to find a silvery or golden color in nature, most likely their eyes will look in the sky for the accompanying lights of our sister planets, gold for the sun and silver for the moon. But colorful relationships between earth metals and celestial bodies are far from rare dreams; they form the very framework on which civilization is built.

It all began during the “Halkhalite” period in western Anatolia, now called Turkey, after the first discoveries of the series known later as the Seven Metals of Antiquity. On the eve of the Iron and Bronze Ages, the “Halkhalite Period,” translated into plain English as the “Copper Age,” marked the transition of Neolithic man and his use of stone, obsidian, and flint tools into the first organized societies. This stage of human evolution is based on the use of ores transformed into metal tools and jewelry such as rings, earrings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets.

For more than 7000 years, from 6000 B.C. before 1400 AD, only seven metals were known to man. These metals are collectively known as the “Seven Metals of Antiquity”: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead, and mercury. Mercury was mistakenly thought to be a type of silver and was called “Hydrargyrum” in Greek, meaning “watery silver”, which became the English “quicksilver”.

From the Archaic to the Middle Ages, civilizations and their leaders valued silver and the other six metals above all else. The common perception of these pre-scientific periods was that the earth and everything on it was a reflection of the heavens: “As above, so below,” a fundamental belief of alchemy. Thus, when the high priests, oracles, and alchemists looked to the heavens and saw the seven heavenly bodies, they found their equivalent in the powers and properties of their most precious material: metal.

It was clearly seen that the gold with its radiance represents the Sun, and the silver with its shimmering shine represents the Moon. All they had to do now was assign each metal a symbol. The circle, the solar sign of perfection, was given to the most ancient and most precious of metals: gold. Second in value, silver, given the crescent moon. Accordingly, the less noble the metal, the more defects the circle has.

In both Mesopotamia and Egypt some of these symbols were already used for planetary deities. The circle in Egypt was a sign of the sun god Amun, in Mesopotamia it was a sign of Shamash. The crescent moon in ancient Egypt signified the “Heavenly Mother” and the “Moon Goddess”: Isis. It is because of this association that the crescent-shaped hieroglyph became the alchemical symbol for silver, and why we associate silver with the moon today. These symbols, although slightly evolved over time, were to be used by alchemists such as Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton well into the 18th century AD.

In ancient Greece, the goddess of the moon was called Selene, and among the Romans she was known as Luna. Although Luna’s powers were not as revered as her Egyptian counterpart, Isis, they were powerful enough to give her name as an element in another concept based on the number 7. A concept rooted in to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, and the one that forms the very basis of modern civilization: Time.

The indispensable silver light of the Moon Goddess Luna was absorbed into the concept of time and marked by the word “Dies Lunae”, meaning “Day of the Moon”. Now we know this period not as a lunar day, but as Monday, one of the seven days of the week.

Read The Alchemist’s Silver Jewelry and The Number 7 – Part II 7 Days of the Week

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