Book of Royal Gemstones


This work, by Abu al-‛Abbās Ahmad b. Yūsuf al-Qaysī al-Tīfāshī, a 13th-century writer and mineralogist who was born in Tunisia and worked in Egypt, describes precious gems found in the treasuries of kings and rulers. The author lists 25 gemstones and dedicates a chapter to each. They include the ruby (yāqūt), emerald (zumurrud), topaz (zabarjad), diamond (almās), turquoise (fīrūzaj), magnetite (maghnātīs), agate (‛aqīq), lapis lazuli (lāzward), coral (marjān), and quartz (talq). In each chapter, the author discusses the causes of the gemstone’s formation, provenance, criteria for appraisal of specimens, qualities and uses of the stone, and average pricing. The pricing information made the book exceptionally important to appraisers at the time it was written, and make it an invaluable source of information for historians. In the section on turquoise, al-Tīfāshī states that the best stones come from mines in the mountains of Nīshāpūr. He describes it as a “cold” and “dry” stone that helps improve eyesight and ameliorates ophthalmologic conditions such as amblyopia and papilledema. He refers to a letter from Aristotle to Alexander, in which the philosopher praised this stone and its use by the kings of Persia. He further says that the prices of turquoise gems (fuss) vary widely. Two specimens may look the same, but one may cost a dīnār, the other only a dirham. Berber rulers paid as much as ten Maghribī dīnārs for a single turquoise gem that they wore on their rings or used as ornaments on sword sheaths. Similar information is provided about each type of stone.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

أحجار الملوكية

Type of Item

Physical Description

128 text folios; 12.5 x 16 centimeters


  • Leaves are loose, written in black, with titles in red, with enumerations and commentary in the margins.

Last updated: May 30, 2012