The Heliotrope is a half-transparent green gem with sanguine specks, growing to the Jasper and the «Prassius». The name «Heleotropus» is derived from two Greek words; the one «Ήλιος», which signifies «the Sun», the other «στροφή», which signifies «a turning»; as if did it turn according to the motion of the Sun, as the herb «Heliotropium» or the «Marigold» does open and shut the rising and setting of the Sun.
In the ancient sources we can read that Heliotrope was found in India, in Ethiopia, in Africa, in Cyprus, in Germany, in Bohemia (now Czech Republic), and that «of so great masse of bigness, that oftentimes gravestones to cover dead bodies are cut out of it; and yet (which is very strange) Anselmus Boctius says, this stone is known to very few». Boetius, p.130.
It occurs in obtuse masses, with translucent edges, and is of a resinous luster. For today, it is found in Siberia, in the Faroe Islands, in Scotland, in several countries of Asia and Africa, and in some portions of the United States.
It is chiefly employed for sword and dagger hilts, for snuff-boxes, and the ordinary articles of Jewelry. Ii is much admired. Its price is measured by its number of red spots, a good and large specimen often bringing twenty dollars.
It is reported of it, that if it be put into water which is directly opposed to the beams of the Sun, it will make the water boy, and cause it to be resolved into a cloud, which not long after is dissolved into drops of rain.
And if it be put into fair water, opposed to the beams of the Sun, it does change its beams, and by the repercussion of the air, seems to shadow the clearness of its rays; and so to by the interposition of the body of the Moon, did suffer an ecliptic darkness.
Martinus Rulandus and Baccius do say, that this power and faculty is proper only to the «Ethiopic Heliotrope». Hence this metric elegance of Marobadaus:
«Ex re nomen babens est Heliotropia Gemma(s),
Sua solis radiis in aqua subjecta(s)
Sanguineum reddit mutato lumine solem,
Esclipsimq; novam terris effundere cogit»,
that we can be literally translated as:
«The reality is the name babens (?) Gem Heliotrope,
Its rays of the sun on water subjects
Bloody makes changing light of the sun;
Esclipsimq (?); Shedding new countries to absorb»
There is a report, which arises of the impudence of Magicians, that if this gem be anointed with the juice of Marigold, it will cause him that carries in to walk invisible. So say Pliny.
This gem is said to be endued with the same faculties with the Jasper; and to procure men riches, and good report amongst men; and to be good against venoms and fluxes of blood. Pliny lib.37.cap.10.
Its red spots, according to mediaeval superstition, were owing to the blood of Christ being diffused through it.