Close up of an obsidian stone

Gems of the Aztecs

Gems of the Aztecs

If you want to know how the other half lived, the best way to find out is through their jewelry. As with most ancient cultures it’s the rich and powerful who had the best access to the finest craftsmanship. That means you can tell a lot about the best educated people of the time by examining the materials and construction of their “bling”.



The Aztecs made their jewelry from metal such as gold and copper. Then they added other materials for effect. They were skilled craftspeople and took whatever they could lay their hands on including organic materials like shell, clay and wood for their ornaments. However, the finest pieces were usually made using Jade or Obsidian. These would definitely have been off limits to the masses given their relative scarcity.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass. During a volcanic eruption some areas of lava cool much more quickly than others. When lava cools like this there’s no chance of forming complex crystals and the resulting material tends to be hard but brittle as a result. When you fracture obsidian it results in extremely hard sharp edges. That made it the perfect material for weaponry and tool making. Obsidian can be broken in very predictable ways and its availability may explain why Mesoamerican tribes had relatively poor metallurgical skills compared to other races.

The use of obsidian is often cited in theories regarding artwork in Mesoamerica. It has been found in ear spools, jeweled beads, vases, buildings, and sculpture. One interesting use for the gem is in the detail found on ritual blades from the Aztec period, these are called itz in the Nahuatl Language of the time. Interestingly obsidian is called itztli in the same language and the two are intimately connected in the understanding of Aztec tribes.

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Healing Properties

There are many healing properties associated with Obsidian. This includes the ability to shield a person from negativity. It prevents psychic attacks and cleans up the energy in your environment. If you want to work with it – it’s best to clean it in water.

I’ve found that obsidian is a wonderful companion for meditation it helps you draw out your stress and mental tension. That helps your mind return to rest without confusion. If you want to explore your true-self you can slowly cleanse yourself of negative thoughts focusing on the gem. It might be best for first-timers to ground it with rose quartz as the process can be a little overwhelming for the unprepared.

You can also wear the gem to ward off arthritis and joint pain. It really does help with cramps and I’ve found that it warms the fingers gently.

I’d like to share a personal experience with Obsidian. It was a mixture of types with a gentle infusion of snowflake, mahogany and black. I wrapped it when my mother was alive and well. I found that each time I wore it, that the energy was too heavy on me and it could even cause headaches.

A few months later my mother was lying sick in a hospice. I sat by her bedside and watched as she fell into a coma and the monitors began to go crazy. I suddenly knew that I was going to lose my mother. Her heart had stopped and I was losing one of the most important people in my life. I’d prepared some gemstones as healing aids but without even looking I grabbed the obsidian and pulled it to me. The respite it brought was immediate. All the worry, all the negative energy in me drained away. My initial hysteria was replaced with a deep calm. In fact the nurses began to worry about me – they thought I’d gone into shock. I hadn’t and they were relieved to see how much the stone had helped.



Jade’s a very different substance. It’s highly sought after and very much prized to this very day. There are two types of Jade; Nephrite and Jadeite. Jadeite is as hard as quartz whereas Nephrite is softer and easier to work with. In Aztec times both forms were considered to be the same, it took until the 19th century for a French mineralogist to determine that there were two distinct chemical forms of Jade.

In Mesoamerican cultures Jade would have been highly prized and extremely expensive. It was often used for tracing the outlines of hieroglyphics or shaped into the forms of gods. It would have been a serious addition to religious rituals. Jade sculptures abound from this period – people, gods, shamanic transformations, plants, animals and even the abstract can be found among the remains of the Aztec civilization.

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Healing Properties

As a healing gem Jade is known to symbolize purity and serenity. Like Obsidian, Jade can be used for protection. It can also help you develop loving and nurturing feelings. It brings harmony while ensuring the wearer is safe from harm. It attracts good luck, friendships and money.

I find that it enables me to be more self-sufficient and that it soothes my mind by helping me let go of negative thoughts. It’s a wonderful dream stone and I’ve always had the most insightful dreams when wearing Jade.

A great use of Jade is to encourage emotional release so that you can revel in personal bliss. It seems to have wonderful properties for the filtration and elimination organs and can really help with kidney problems. If you’re expecting then it is truly awesome for childbirth. Many others swear by Jade’s value in balancing their bodily fluids.

The Aztecs were definitely onto something when they began incorporating these two healing gems into their jewelry. It explains why they were able to achieve so much when their rulers were constantly being cleansed of negative energy.


Johnna Crider.


jcknife2Johnna is an artist who creates jewelry with wire and gems and minerals. Will you be her canvas? Let her decorate you in gems and minerals and turn you into a work of art. As an artist she is constantly learning new techniques, as well as about minerals, and about life.

Visit Johnna’s website here.