What is an Amulet?

An amulet is a special object, believed to confer power or protection upon its bearer. Natural amulets have been used by prehistoric humans since the time of Neanderthals, gaining cultural significance as man-made objects in ancient civilisations from predynastic Egypt to the Graeco-Roman era, in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in Buddhism, as well as China, Japan and beyond.

In Ancient Egypt amulets were a popular item worn by the majority. The object’s magical powers could be derived from its shape, decoration, inscription, colour, material, or by an intention spoken over it. They were often worn on the body as pendant or necklace, so that they would stay watching over their owner. Semi-precious stones were common, and the Egyptians believed in chromotherapy, the power of colour to heal. Precious metals such as gold and silver were favoured by the aristocracy for their durable qualities.

Similarly, in Roman civilisation amulets made connections between gemstones and specific gods, though the amulet was said to help instil the powers of the gods themselves rather than their being carried as an as an act of devotion. The meaning of the amulet is clear from inscriptions such as vterfexix (utere fexix) or "good luck to the user."