In ancient cultures, bloodstones were thought to quite literally stop bleeding. Though the Ancient Egyptians used it in rituals for opening locks and bonds, its use by Roman soldiers and gladiators is the most familiar. Bloodstones were carried by these men to increase their strength and help them to avoid being wounded in the first place. If they were cut, the warriors would apply their bloodstone directly to the injury in the hope of halting the hemorrhage. Reliable sources from the era say that this procedure often worked. As Scott Cunningham notes, though, much of this success was probably due to the coolness of the stones – which were usually large – and the application of direct pressure.
In the Middle Ages, bloodstones were carved as medals with pictures of the crucifixion or the martyrdom of saints. This gave the stone its alternative name: martyr’s stone. According to the Inquisition, the Knights Templar had an enormous bloodstone carved with the image of the Devil which figured in their Satanic rituals. It probably goes without saying that nothing even vaguely resembling this has ever been located.
Meanwhile, further down the class ladder among wise folk and old wives, small bloodstones were carried as pocket pieces or tied onto the body for specific benefit. Gripping a bloodstone was thought to calm anxiety and promote courage. Pregnant women tied a bloodstone around their left arm to prevent miscarriage. When labor was imminent, the stone was moved to the left thigh where it was thought to encourage a quick and easy childbirth.
In the Renaissance era, the bloodstone began to be associated with legal issues and money. Carrying a bloodstone into court was thought to ensure victory; better results could be achieved if the stone was worn as jewelry set in gold. This type of personal adornment was also thought to keep a prudent man’s coffers well padded.
This idea trickled down as well. By the 18th century, merchants kept a bloodstone in their purse or lock box to promote monetary increase. In modern times, bloodstones are slipped into purses, wallets and cash registers for the same reason.
In the romantic era, when the high Gothic style of poetry and literature reigned supreme, the bloodstone became popular in jewelry. At first, it was used as a symbol of mourning but its popularity continued into the Victorian and Edwardian era even after this association appears to have been forgotten.
Header: Bloodstone set in gold c 1865 via Facets of History