In the Middle Ages it was believed that precious stones possessed natural virtues. They had the power both to protect against diseases and to cure them. Consequently, the tradition of the 'lapidaries' emerged, collections of writings which listed the healing properties of precious stones.
Some stones were also used as beads to make necklaces which were used for praying. Each bead represented a single prayer within a set devotion such as the rosary and similar devotions, and for this reason the beads themselves became known as a rosary.
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