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What is Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

We can imagine that by now you and your loved ones are in the delicious bubble that is the week between Christmas and New Year. Whether you have travelled across the country to see your relatives or you have hosted an extremely large get together, it is likely that you are in the Christmas haze of champagne, Micheal Bublé and joy. 


We are sure that you are all familiar with the traditional Christmas tale of the birth of Jesus, yet one part of the tale that always excites intrigue and bedazzles people all over the world are the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. 


Gifted by the Magi, also known as the three kings, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were traditional and ancient gifts to honour the birth or anointment of a King or deity. In numerous ancient tales, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were gifted to mythological Kings and Gods - so this gift to Jesus seemed fitting. 


The Adoration of the Kings, Jan Gossaert, 1510-15, Source National Gallery


The markers of Christianity, it is believed that these three gifts also had symbolic connotations attached in relation to Jesus himself. Gold represented Jesus’s kingship, Frankincense was a symbol of his priestly nature, and Myrrh a foreshadowing of his death used for embalming and preserving his body. 


What’s more, more recent scientific investigations into these three gifts have found them to possess many medicinal properties too. It is no secret that ancient societies were well-versed in homoeopathy and thus these gifts could also have been given for their medicinal nature. For example, Frankincense has been used as an ancient healer for arthritis, which recent scientific trials have proved to be effective. 


Read on for a deeper look into these three incredible gifts:


Gold 

The world’s most sought after and precious metal, adorning royalty for thousands of years, it seems only fitting that Gold would be a momentous gift for a born King himself. 


It is no secret that here at Lillicoco, we have an abundance of Gold jewellery, from 9ct to 18ct, Gold is favoured decoratively for its gorgeous hue, ranging from buttery Yellow Gold to champagne tones, rosy amber hues and more. A gallant metal, Gold is also known for being malleable, ductile, high resistance to corrosion and doesn’t react to oxygen - so it remains for thousands of years after being originally created - much like the legacy of Jesus himself. 


Antique 15ct Gold Cross Pendant, Lillicoco

Gold has been used in numerous ancient artefacts, from Paleolithic caves to Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. A marker of sophistication, Gold was also used in the early exchanges of currency, helping to shape civilisations as we know them today. 


It is no doubt that Gold has always therefore been used as a status symbol, separating one class from another. Those who have held Gold in history, have also been known to hold tremendous amounts of power and influence, so again, it only seems fitting that the baby Jesus was a recipient of this. 


There are many reasons as to why Gold is deemed to be so valuable, simply its complex story throughout history and it falling favour with royalty and popes is enough to bolster its status. Yet, its scarcity, aesthetic, and its form as a wealth storage tool have caused many to buy gold throughout history. 


Frankincense 

Frankincense is an aromatic resin which has been used for centuries in oils and perfumes. Coming from the Old French expression franc ensens, translating to high-quality, noble and pure incense. 


Frankincense originates from the bark of the Boswellia tree which is known to grow in harsh environments. Traded for 6,000 years, in the Arabian Peninsula, frankincense was used in religious rites of Ancient Mesopotamia and Eastern Mediterranean. With this in mind, Frankincense is still heavily used in religious ceremonies today. Most of today’s Frankincense originates in North Africa and India, yet it can also be harvested in Oman, Yemen, and Western Africa. 


As previously mentioned, Frankincense was not only known for its religious significance but also for its medicinal properties too. In Chinese medicine, Frankincense is believed to possess antibacterial properties and aid in blood circulation. It has also been believed that Frankincense has powerful anti-inflammatory properties due to its possession of boswellic acid. Moreover, even more groundbreaking is that recent scientific trials have found that Frankincense has been found to kill some types of cancer cells in laboratories, yet these trials are still rudimentary and have not been tested on actual humans. 


Due to its significance within the tale of the birth of Jesus, Frankincense is widely used across different denominations of Christanity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and many more. What’s more, Abrahamic and Islamic faiths have used Frankincense to anoint newborns and initiate spiritual members into new phases of their life. 


In perfume and aromatherapy, Frankincense is known for having spicy undertones with a citrus edge. 


Myrrh

Akin to Frankincense, Myrrh is a natural resin that is extracted from the Commiphora tree and has been used throughout history as a natural perfume, incense and as a form of medicine. 


The name of Myrrh originates from the Hebrew Bible and also from Ancient Greek language, directly relating to the Ancient Greek myth of Myrrha. Myrrha was the mother of Adonis, and was transformed into a Myrrh tree after having an incestuous relationship with her father. 


The Birth of Adonis, Marcantonio Franceschini, 1690


Myrrh has been used for pharmaceutical purposes as a known antiseptic, helping as a healing salve to treat minor wounds and skin abrasions. What’s more, it has also been used in dental hygiene for centuries too, a common ingredient in tooth powders, mouthwashes and toothpastes. 


In its pure form, Myrrh gum is believed to help remedy asthma, coughs, ulcers, indigestion and lung congestion, and particularly can be ingested when mixed with wine. Myrrh and frankincense are often combined for ointments and incense. Due to its mention in the New Testament, Myrrh as an incense is often used in liturgical celebrations. What’s more, it is an important component in medicine and perfume in Islam.


Myrrh and Frankincense are also traditionally used in burial rituals, especially in the embalming of a body. 


We hope you have enjoyed our informative blog about these three gifts, which of course are now wholeheartedly associated with Christmas. Our next blog will go live on New Year’s Eve, celebrating the Art Deco era in all of her glory!


If you have any questions surrounding our gorgeous antique jewels, please do not hesitate to contact us at enquiries@lillicoco.com!
Molly Chatterton

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