Arda and Middle-earth knew poverty, destruction, war, and hardship aplenty, but from their very own sources of light to precious jewels and metals, it also shone and sparkled with items of sheer magical brilliance, many of which were also of huge symbolic value. These are some of them:
Amy O’Hanlon: Illuin and Ormal
The Two Lamps: Illuin and Ormal
The first illumination provided by the Valar within Arda, long before the arrival of the Elves (the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar), and one of their greatest creations: the two lamps Illuin (“sky-blue”) to the north of Middle-earth and Ormal (“high-gold”) to the south. The Lamps — made by Aulë and raised upon two enormous pillars with the help of Manwë and Varda — fostered the growth of flora and fauna, and the Valar made their first home on the Island of Almaren in the Great Lake at the center of Arda, where the light of the Two Lamps was the strongest. The time period during which Middle-earth was illuminated by the light of the Two Lamps is known as the Years of the Lamps.
But the Lamps were eventually destroyed by Melkor, who hated their beauty. In the process of that destruction Arda and Middle-earth were reshaped, and the Long Night began in Middle-earth, a time of darkness that would not end until the first rising of the Moon and the Sun, nearly fifteen thousand (solar) years later. During this time, Middle-earth was only illuminated by the stars that Varda had set into the sky.
Meanwhile, the Valar made a new home for themselves at the western edge of Arda, named Aman (“the Blessed” or “the Undying Lands”), where their home of Valinor (“the Land of the Valar”) was illuminated by:
Roger Garland: Two Trees of Valinor
The Two Trees of Valinor:
Laurelin and Telperion
The Two Trees were created by Yavanna’s Song of Power and watered by Nienna’s tears; they gew outside the western gates of Valmar. Laurelin’s golden and Telperion’s silver light illuminated Valinor and (later) Tol Eressëa, waxing and waning in a twelve-hour cycle, until the Darkening of Valinor ensued when they were sucked dry of light and poisoned by the giant spider Ungoliant at Melkor’s behest, after Melkor had been released from the Halls of Mandos, where he had been thrown for three ages after the end of the Battle of the Powers. Yavanna and Nienna were unable to heal the Trees, but they were able to stimulate them into yielding one last fruit each, from which they created the Sun and the Moon.
The time period during which Valinor was illuminated by the light of the Two Trees is known as the Years of the Trees.
The Sun and the Moon
Ingvild Schlage: Arien and Tilion
The two lights traveling around Arda after the destruction of the Two Trees, created from the Trees’ last fruit and steered by two Maiar:
Arien, a spirit of fire and one of the people of Vána; to guide the Sun through the skies, she took the form of a brilliant flame — and
Tilion, a member of Oromë’s hunt, carrying a bow of silver; he loved the silver rays of Telperion, and when the Tree was destroyed he asked for the honor of steering its last flower into the sky.
The Silmarils, the Nauglamír and the Light of Eärendil
Fëanor (art by Steamey), the Silmarils (source),
and Melkor / Morgoth (art by Frédéric Bennett)
Three ethereally bright jewels encapsulating and shining with the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, captured inside an unbreakable shell made of a crystalline matter known as silima (“shining substance made by craft”); created by the Ñoldorin lord Fëanor, Aulë’s most gifted student among the Eldar in Aman. Varda hallowed the Silmarils, and any impure or unworthy hand touching them would henceforth be scorched and wither away.
Melkor coveted the Silmarils; and it was for their sake that he had Ungoliant destroy the Two Trees and bring about the Darkening of Valinor by drenching all of Valinor in the impenetrable darkness caused by the poisonous vapors that she emitted, so he could exploit the darkness to steal the Silmarils and set them in his iron crown — an act for which Fëanor cursed him as Morgoth (“the Black Foe”), by which name he was known ever after.
However, Fëanor’s own refusal to permit the use of the Silmarils (before their theft by Melkor) to recreate the Two Trees, as well as the jewels’ theft by Morgoth and the subsequent oath sworn by Fëanor and his sons to recover the Silmarils at all costs, cast a doom on the jewels that affected (almost) everybody coming in touch with them: the Ñoldor who had been incited to follow Fëanor to Middle-earth in pursuit of Morgoth were banished from Valinor; Fëanor and his sons all perished in the Silmarils’ quest — Fëanor himself after having barely reached Middle-earth, his sons thereafter, whenever they undertook a specific act directed at recovering the jewels –, while themselves in turn also visiting death and destruction upon their Elven Kindred in the three cataclysmic Kinslayings (one on the Teleri of Tol Eressëa, two on their Sindarin kin in Middle-earth, at Doriath and the Havens of Sirion); Beren’s hand was bitten off by Carcharoth, the hellhound of Angband, after he had actually managed to cut off one Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown; and Thingol was killed and Menegroth, the capital of his kingdom of Doriath, was sacked after he had quarreled with the Dwarven craftsmen over the Nauglamír. Finally, after the War of Wrath, the two Silmarils that had remained on Morgoth’s crown were destroyed by Fëanor’s only two remaining sons Maedhros and Maglor after they had burned their hands; Maedhros threw himself into a chasm, the jewel in his hands; and Maglos tossed his Silmaril into the sea.
Ultimately, it would take Elwing’s preservation of the one Silmaril come down to her from Beren and Lúthien, and her husband Eärendil’s selfless plea on behalf of the Children of Ilúvatar, for the Valar to restore a meaning of hope to this one Silmaril — the only one to be preserved — by setting it on Eärendil’s brow in his journey across the sky in his white ship Vingilot.
Ted Nasmith: the Nauglamír
An elaborate necklace, the most renowned of the works of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains; originally made for Finrod Felagund with gems he had brought from Valinor, but retrieved from the hoard of Glaurung in Nargothrond, taken to Menegroth and given to Thingol by Húrin. After Beren and his beloved, Thingol’s daughter Lúthien, had retrieved one Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown and the jewel had been taken from the belly of Carcharoth, where it still rested in Beren’s bitten-off hand, Thingol hired the Dwarves of Nogrod to refashion the Nauglamír so as to hold the Silmaril in pride of place. However, a dispute arose over payment for the Dwarves’ work and the possession of the Nauglamír, which ended up with Thingol’s death and, subsequently, the sacking of Menegroth.
Beren recovered the Nauglamír from the Dwarves on their flight back to Nogrod and gave it to Lúthien, who wore it for the rest of her — now mortal — life. Thereafter, the necklace was passed down to Beren and Lúthien’s heirs, until Elwing and Eärendil took it to Valinor on their voyage to plead with the Valar on behalf of the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men). The Valar then took the Silmaril from the Nauglamír and set it on Eärendil’s brow, there to remain forever after and shine during his voyages across the sky.
(Galadriel’s phial: image source)
The Light of Eärendil
The light from the Silmaril set on Eärendil’s brow (and from the white flame set into his ship Vingilot), visible in the night sky as a beacon of hope to the Elves and Men who had survived the War of Wrath. The Galadhrim of Lothlórien possessed a phial capturing some of this light in the water of the fountain filling the Mirror of Galadriel. Galadriel gave the phial to Frodo as a parting gift after the Fellowship’s visit to Lothlórien to shine where all other light would fail and to restore hope and courage in hopeless circumstances. Frodo would later clutch Galadriel’s phial as a last resort to keep his fingers from putting on the One Ring when coming across the Witch-king of Angmar, who was leading a host of Saruman’s troops out of Minas Morgul just as Frodo and Sam, (mis)guided by Gollum, were on their way into Mordor; and shortly thereafter both Frodo and Sam would hold up Galadriel’s phial as a defense against Shelob, the giant spider of Mordor, whose eyes were hurt by the Light of Eärendil, and who thus could not approach them as long as they were holding the phial.
Palantír of Barad-dûr (center row right): art by Stirzocular
Eight “seeing stones”: crystal balls that, like the Silmarils, were (probably) originally created by Fëanor while he was still living in Valinor (or if not by Fëanor, at any rate by the Eldar, and among these most likely by the Ñoldor). The Palantíri showed things and scenes occurring far away in time and space; they could also communicate with each other and thus allow anyone looking into them to see and speak to those looking into the communicating Palantír. However, only a person of strong will could master them.
The master stone was kept in the Tower of Avallónë, the chief city and port of Tol Eressëa; but the Eldar gave the seven other stones to Amandil, last Lord of Andúnië, and he in turn gave them to his son and grandsons, Elendil, Isildur and Anárion, to take to Middle-earth on their flight from the approaching doom of Númenor. In Middle-earth, the Palantíri were spread out across different locations; three in Arnor and four in Gondor:
The palantíri of Gondor: Osgiliath-stone (source) — Ithil-stone (source) — Minas Anor/ Minas Tirith (source)
— Orthanc (art by John Howe)
- The chief stone, later known as the Osgiliath-stone, was housed in the tower known as the Dome of Stars at Osgiliath; this was the only one of the Palantíri that allowed a view of all the other stones at the same time. However, it was lost when the city was destroyed during the Kin-strife.
- The stone placed into the tower of Minas Ithil was captured by the Nazgûl when they took possession of the city and renamed it Minas Morgul; it thus found its way to Sauron and made the use of all other Palantíri extremely perilous, as it allowed Sauron to extend his control to anyone using any of the other stones. This stone was (probably) lost when Barad-dûr — where Sauron had eventually taken it — was destroyed in the War of the Ring.
- The stone placed into the tower of Minas Anor (later Minas Tirith) was the one most closely allied with the Ithil-stone; the Stewards of Gondor ceased using it after Minas Ithil had fallen to Mordor. However, Denethor II, who had become Steward shortly before the War of the Ring, falsely believed that he could still control it; in reality, he delivered himself into Sauron’s hands (and thus endangered the whole realm of Gondor), as Sauron manipulated him into a state of increasing despair and madness, until he burned himself during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields with the Palantír in his hands. After that, the stone became virtually useless, because all it would ever show (except to a person of unusually strong will) was an image of two scorched hands.
- The Orthanc-stone housed in the tower of Isengard was little-used (if at all) during most of the Third Age. Saruman asked for permission to settle in Isengard chiefly in order to (literally) be able to lay his hands on the Palantír kept there; only to be likewise ensnared by Sauron, however, once Saruman had extended the use of the stone all the way to Mordor, falsely still believing himself in control. — After Saruman’s minion Gríma Wormtongue had unwittingly delivered this Palantír into Aragorn’s and Gandalf’s hands, Aragorn used it to show himself to Sauron and thus throw down his gauntlet; but he also learned from the Orthanc-stone the state of the enemy’s preparations (e.g., the pirate ships then on their way up the River Anduin), which allowed him to devise his plans for the upcoming campaign.
After the end of the War of the Ring, Arathorn used this Palantír in order to monitor the state of his newly-reunified kingdom; and from it he also learned that the original Elendilmir — the Star of Elendil diadem that was part of the heirlooms of the House of Elendil — had not been lost in the waves of the Anduin when Isildur had drowned there, but had in fact been stolen by Saruman and taken to Isengard.
The Palantíri of Arnor: Amon Sûl (art by Donato Giancola) — Stone of Elendil (source) — Annúminas-stone (art by Jeff Reitz)
- The chief Palantír among those in Arnor was placed into the tower of Amon Sûl (Weathertop). After the partition of Arnor, the borders of all three of its successor kingdoms — Arthedain, Rudaur and Cardolan — met at Amon Sûl, but while Rudaur and Cardolan, as well as the Witch-king of Angmar, coveted it, and the tower of Amon Sûl itself was eventually destroyed by Angmar, Arthedain saved the Palantír and, thereafter, housed it in Fornost. After the fall of Arthedain, the stone was lost in the shipwreck in which also died Arvedui, the kingdom’s last ruler, who had taken the Palantíri of Amon Sûl and Annúminas on his voyage in an attempt to rescue them from the ruin of Arthedain.
- A second Palantír, known as the Stone of Elendil, was placed in the Tower of Elostirion, the tallest of the White Towers erected by Gil-galad for Elendil in the Tower Hills in western Eriador, not far from the Gulf of Lune. This Palantír looked only towards the Undying Lands, and the Eldar made occasional pilgrimages to Elostirion in order to look at Valinor and Eldamar. After the fall of Elendil, the Elves of Middle-earth took the Stone of Elendil back into their care; and it was eventually conveyed back to the Undying Lands with the ship carrying the Ring-bearers and Gandalf / Olórin there two years after the end of the War of the Ring.
- The third of the Palantíri of Arnor was originally housed in the kingdom’s first capital of Annúminas, but, like the one rescued from Amon Sûl, later taken to Fornost for its better protection. There it remained until Arvedui, the last King of Arthedain, took it (and the Palantír of Amon Sûl) on the fateful sea voyage that ended with his death in a shipwreck, in which both of the Palantíri the ship was carrying were lost as well.
The Rings of Power
Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne;
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them;
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
Twenty rings conveying special powers to their wearers; nineteen of which, however, Sauron intended to bring under his control by forging the One Ring. Most of the Rings of Power were made in the Second Age by the Elven smiths of Eregion (led by the Ñoldorin lord Celebrimbor, last scion of the House of Fëanor), largely under Sauron’s guidance in his seemingly benevolent guise as Annatar. The One Ring, however, was entirely Sauron’s own and thoroughly evil creation.
The One Ring
Sauron’s own Ring of Power; an item of pure, condensed Evil forged in Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, in order to control all nineteen other Rings of Power. It also had sway over many of Sauron’s other works, such as the tower of Barad-dûr, as well as ultimately over Sauron himself, as his own power waned with the Ring’s disappearance and experienced a veritable surge once the Ring had been found and brought back into the open by Bilbo Baggins.
Ordinarily appearing as a deceptively plain band of gold, the incantation worked into the Ring in the language of Mordor — translating as “One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them; In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie” — was visible only when the ring was heated by (an ordinary) fire, and even then the Ring remained cool to the touch. The only fire in which it could be destroyed was that in which it had originally been created; that of Mount Doom itself.
Those who wore the Ring passed into the realm of the Unseen, becoming invisible to all those still in the realm of the Seen (like other Men and Elves), but instantly visible to those also part of the realm of the Unseen, like the Nazgûl. Putting on the Ring also instantly drew the attention of Sauron, as well as his agents; chiefly, again, the Nazgûl, Ring-wraiths themselves.
The Ring was sentient: not only could it change its size depending on the size of its bearer’s fingers; more importantly, the Ring itself determined when and by whom it wanted to be worn; and it incresingly consumed and subdued its bearers both in body and mind, reducing them to wraiths and mere shadows of their former selves: taking away their own free will, compelling them to do its own bidding, and turning them increasingly mean-spirited and jealous of its possession. None but the wisest of the wise (such as Gandalf, Aragorn and Galadriel) could withstand its lure; and nobody who had possessed it for even a while would willingly give it up again, let alone have the strength to destroy it: even Frodo’s mission to Mount Doom almost failed at the very last minute, for however well he understood the importance of the Ring’s destruction, and for however much the Ring had increasingly become a burden to him, both mentally and physically, especially after he and Sam had entered Mordor.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings
The three Elven Rings and their wearers (left image: source)
The three Elven Rings of Power were forged by Celebrimbor and his People of the Jewel-smiths without Sauron’s involveent, and the power they conferred was a power to build, understand, and heal. They escaped from being drawn into the One Ring’s sway because Celebrimbor and his people overheard Sauron’s dark incantations while forging his One Ring from afar, and the Elven master-smith first hid the Three Rings, then sent them away to the three greatest and wisest Elves living in Middle-earth at the time:
- Vilya (the Ring of Air, set with a sapphire), the mightiest of the Three Elven Rings, to Gil-galad, last High-king of the Ñoldor, who in turn entrusted his ring to Elrond at the first meeting of the White Council;
- Narya (the Ring of Fire, set with a glowing ruby) probably first to Círdan the Shipwright, oldest of the Eldar in Middle-earth; the leader of the Falathrim and the last remaining representative of the Teleri who had traveled west from Cuiviénen after the first Elves’ awakening there (though it may also first have come to Gil-galad together with Vilya, who then passed it on to Círdan): Círdan would eventually pass this Ring to the Istar (Wizard) Olórin, known in Middle-earth as Gandalf, foreseeing that Gandalf would in future derive great help from the fire within Narya; and
- Nenya (the Ring of Water, made of mithril and set with a white stone of diamond-like adamant) to Galadriel, in whose possession it remained until the end.
Although not directly controlled by the One Ring, the three Elven Rings were believed to lose their power with the One Ring’s destruction. They were taken to the Undying Lands by their bearers after the end of the War of the Ring, traveling in the same ship that also carried the two Hobbit Ring-bearers of the One Ring, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Durin’s Ring and the Seven Rings for the Dwarf-lords
Durin’s Ring and the Seven Dwarven Rings (art by Weta Workshop)
The Seven Rings given to the Dwarf-lords — the leaders of the Seven Houses of the Dwarves — by the Elves; these Rings, the One Ring also largely failed to be able to control, other than inducing their wearers to even greater pride and lust for gold than was typical for all Dwarves anyway. For this failure to dominate them, Sauron held the Dwarves in a particular degree of hatred; and he eventually tried to recover the Seven Rings, but was successful only with three of them, whereas the other four were consumed by dragons.
The greatest of the Dwarven Rings of Power was Durin’s Ring, which was given to the Second Age Dwarf-king Durin III by Celebrimbor himself as a token of friendship, and which passed down from generation to generation as an important heirloom of the Longbeards. Durin’s Ring was one of the three eventually taken away by Sauron, when he captured Durin’s Third-Age descendant Thráin — the father of Thorin II Oakenshield — and locked him up in the dungeon of his fortress of Dol Guldur.
Nine Rings for Mortal Men
The Nine Rings of Power given to leaders of Men were, from Sauron’s point of view, the most effective ones, as unlike the Elves and the Dwarves, the Kings of Men who had received these Rings were entirely unable to resist their sway, which initially prolongued their lives, gave them the ability to see things belonging to the Unseen Realm, and enabled them to amass great wealth and power; but eventually caused their bodies to fade to the point of invisibility, only being recognizable by the hoods and garments in which they were wrapped, and which subjected their whole existence to the domination of the One Ring.
The Nine Rings were (probably) destroyed in the Fires of Mount Doom after the end of the War of the Ring, in which the remaining eight of their wearers likewise perished, after the leader of the Nazgûl, the Witch-king of Angmar, had already been destroyed during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields by Éowyn, with Merry’s help.
The Heirlooms of the House of Elendil
Antti Autio: Heirlooms of the House of Elendil
The items symbolizing the House of Elendil’s kingship and right to the throne of Arnor, as well as its heritage going back to the Kings of Númenor and the Lords of Andúnië, and from there to the First-Age union of Beren and Lúthien and, through them, also invoking the patronage of the lords of both the Sindar (extended to Beren by Lúthien’s father Thingol) and the Ñoldor (extended to Beren and his father Barahir by Finrod Felagund, son of Finarfin), thus also binding their Elven kin still in Middle-earth in the Third Age, Elrond of Rivendell, as well as Celeborn andGaladriel , the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien.
(Top row: art by Rondador, ElfinFen and Rowena Morrill)
Also known as the Star of Elendil or the Star of the Dúnedain, the Elendilmir was a star-shaped white gem set in a mithril diadem, symbolizing the Star of Eärendil that had guided the ancestors of the Dúnedain to Númenor after the end of the War of Wrath and the Drowning of Beleriand at the end of the First Age.
Like several of the other heirlooms of the House of Elendil, the Elendilmir was owned by Silmariën, daughter of the fourth King of Númenor and mother of the first Lord of Andúnië, through whom the House of Elendil traced its descendance from Elrond’s brother Elros (the first King of Númenor); and through Elros, its descendance from, on the one hand, Eärendil, Tuor and the Third House of Hador, and the Ñoldorin House of Fingolfin, and on the other hand, Elwing, Beren and Lúthien, and Lúthien’s father Thingol, Overlord of the Sindar.
Elendil’s son and heir as King of Arnor, Isildur, wore the Elendilmir when his company was attacked by Orcs near the Anduin River while he was on his way to the north after the War of the Last Alliance; the diadem was believed to have been lost when Isildur, fleeing from the Orcs, drowned in the Anduin, and Isildur’s heirs had the Dwarves make a replica, which the rulers of Arnor subsequently wore. However, after the War of the Ring, Aragorn — ascended to the throne of the reunited kingdom of Arnor and Gondor as King Elessar — learned from the Palantír of Orthanc that the original Elendilmir had not been lost but been stolen by Saruman, and he recovered it from the fallen Wizard’s treasury. However, he resolved to only wear the original on high holidays. There is a suggestion that some years into the Fourth Age, he gave “the Elendilmir” to Sam Gamgee as a token of appreciation — it is unlikely, though, that this would have been the original piece; more likely it was the repilca made by the Dwarves.
The diadem with which Aragorn is crowned by Gandalf in the movies bears the emblem of Gondor (the White Tree) more prominently than it does a star (also, the White Tree of Gondor is sitting squarely where the Star of Elendil should be — at the front of the diadem, above the King’s brow); but the feather-shaped tip at its back at least has a vaguely diamond-shaped base, and arguably the coronation scene is lit from behind so as to make the tip rising at the back of the diadem shine just brightly enough to be taken for a silvery-bright star or a gleaming white jewel if you’re not looking too closely. Presumably we’ll have to take that for whatever it’s worth.
The Shards of Narsil
The Sword That Was Broken: Elendil’s sword, forged by Telchar of Nogrod, the most famous of all Dwarven smiths of the First Age. It broke and was half buried under its owner when he was killed by Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance, but Elendil’s son Isildur retrieved its hilt and used the shard still attached to it to cut off Sauron’s finger with the One Ring. After Isildur’s death in the waves of Anduin, the sword’s shards were taken to Arnor by Isildur’s squire Ohtar and, ever after, became one of the heirlooms of the House. When the last King of Arthedain died and his descendants took to living as Rangers, with Rivendell becoming their main refuge and base, they took along the heirlooms of their House; these were kept for Isildur’s heir by Elrond, who prophecied that the sword would be reforged when (and only when) the One Ring was found and Sauron rose once more to power. This happened on the even of the War of the Ring; the reforged blade was then presented to Aragorn, who named it Andúril (“west-brilliance”), after Elrond had already presented him with the shards of Narsil when he had come of age.
Narsil means “sun-moon”; it connotes red and white flames, as well as the golden and white light of the Two Trees of Valinor, from whose final fruits the Valar had created the Sun and the Moon.
The Sceptre of Andúnië
A silver rod; also one of the items that had come to the Lords of Andúnië and their descendants from Silmariën, the matriarch of their line, and which Elendil had then brought to Middle-earth in his flight from Númenor. Later known as the Sceptre of Annúminas, this was the core symbol of the kingship of the rulers of Arnor and subsequently, of Arthedain. Like their House’s other heirlooms, it was taken into safekeeping by Elrond at Rivendell while the kingship was lying dormant; when Aragorn came of age, Elrond told him that he would present him with the sceptre only if and when he had regained his kingdom. After the War of the Ring, Elrond brought the sceptre to Gondor when he took his daughter Arwen there, having at last consented to her and Aragorn’s wedding; and he presented the sceptre to the newly-crowned King Elessar, in whose possession it now once more became the symbol of the kingship of Arnor.
The Ring of Barahir
A ring given to Beren’s father Barahir, the last chief of First House of the Edain in the First Age, after Barahir had saved the life of Finrod Felagund, lord of Nargothrond, during the fourth Battle of Beleriand. Finrod vowed to always come to the assistance of Barahir and his kin, and he gave him his ring in token of that oath. At Barahir’s death, the ring came to his son Beren, who took it to Nargothrond to claim Finrod’s assistance in his pursuit of one of the Silmarils from Morgoth’s crown; thereafter, it was passed down the line of Beren’s descendants until it, too, found its way to Silmariën and from her, to the Lords of Andúnië and eventually to Elendil and his heirs, until like all of the House’s heirlooms it was taken into safekeeping by Elrond in Rivendell. Together with the shards of Narsil, this was one of the items that Elrond presented to Aragorn upon his coming of age, as a token of his (Elrond’s) faith in greater things to come.
A new heirloom added in the regency of Aragorn, connoting his regal name, Elessar, which had long been prophesied for him for the green gem that, as legend had it, Olórin / Gandalf himself had first brought from Valinor and given to Galadriel, who had in turn given it to Aragorn on Arwen’s behalf as a parting gift at the end of the Fellowship’s visit to Lothlórien.
The Elf-stone (image left) is replaced by Arwen’s signature gem, the Evenstar (image right) in the movies — possibly to better distinguish it visually from the Leaves of Lórien given to all of the Fellowship’s members? In the actual book version of The Return of the King, Arwen gives her signature gem to Frodo as a token against the shadow of fear, and also as a token of her gift to Frodo to be able to journey to the Undying Lands with Elrond in Arwen’s stead whenever he has come to feel too weary of the world to go on living in Middle-earth.
(NB: Elrond’s second-in-command Glorfindel leaves an emerald-green gem later also identified as an Elf-stone by Aragorn as a sign to Aragorn’s and Frodo’s party just west of the Ford of Bruinen. If “the” Elf-stone that was foretold as inspiring Aragorn’s royal name passed from Gandalf to Galadriel and from her to Aragorn, albeit on Arwen’s behalf, the stone left by Glorfindel at Bruinen can’t have been the same piece.)
The prize piece in the Dwarves’ hoard under the Lonely Mountain, which they had to leave behind when they were driven out by the dragon Smaug; a huge, unusually brilliant white jewel.
Thorin Oakenshield’s company hired Bilbo Baggins as a “burglar” to retrieve the Arkenstone from Smaug; and he succeeded in doing so, but chose not to hand it over to Thorin, who, after having spent some time in Erebor once they had driven out Smaug, had by this time begun to show signs of dragon sickness (a madness manifesting as extreme greed and greed-induced unreason and stubbornness). Rather, Bilbo revealed his possession of the Arkenstone to Gandalf, the Elvenking Thranduil, and Bard the Bowman, hoping thus to be able to foster a peacefully-negotiated solution to the conflict that had arisen over the Lonely Mountain’s treasures — an idea that failed spectacularly, as it only increased Thorin’s hostility and resolution to go to war. However, after Thorin had been killed in the ensuing Battle of the Five Armies, he was buried with his sword on his breast and the Arkenstone in his hands.
The Emeralds of Girion
Drazenka Kimpel: The Necklace of Girion
Like the Arkenstone, a heirloom associated with the general area of Dale and Laketown east of Mirkwood in northern Rhovanion: a necklace made of five hundred emeralds that Girion, last Lord of Dale at the time of Smaug’s capture of the Lonely Mountain (and ancestor of Bard the Bowman), had given to the Dwarves in exchange for a mail coat made (probably) of mithril for Girion’s elder son. When Smaug was driven out of the Lonely Mountain several generations of Dwarves and Men later, the necklace was part of the share of the recaptured treasure that the new King Under the Mountain, Dáin II Ironfoot, gave to Bard in appreciation of his assistance with the Dwarves’ campaign to resettle in their old home. Bard, in turn gave the necklace to Thranduil, the Elvenking of Mirkwood, who had a greater appreciation for this kind of treasure (and presumably also because it helped fostering good relations with the Elves).
In the movies, we don’t see the Emeralds of Girion but, rather, a necklace known as the White Gems of Lasgalen (“lasgalen” means “greenleaves”; Eryn Lasgalen — Wood of Greenleaves — was the name that Thranduil and Celeborn would later give to Mirkwood): there is a suggestion that this necklace may have been at the heart of a dispute between the Elves and the Dwarves echoing that over the Nauglamír in the First Age, and which further added to Thorin’s and Thranduil’s argument over the Dwaves’ claims of having been deserted by the Elves when facing up to Smaug’s attack when the dragon had first come to Erebor. (This is not canon, but in the general context of the relationship between the Elves and the Dwarves it does make sense.)
The Leaves of Lórien
(Left image: source)
Emerald-green pins that each member of the Fellowship was given to fasten their new Elven cloaks upon their departure from Lothlórien. When Pippin and Merry were captured and abducted by a host of Saruman’s Orcs at Parth Galen, Pippin succeeded in unfasting his pin and dropping it, unnoticed by the Orcs, in the hope — which would turn out to be justified — that any members of the Fellowship that had come in pursuit of the Orcs would recognize it and thus have confirmation they were on the right track.
A great white pearl, the size of a dove’s egg; one of many pearls that the Falathrim found off the Isle of Balar (a piece of Ulmo’s island ferry of Tol Eressëa, which had broken off and remained in the Bay of Balar). Círdan the Shipwright, the leader of the Falathrim, gave Nimphelos to Thingol, who in turn gave it to the Dwarves of Belegost for their work in delving Menegroth.
(Image top left: source)
The famous “true silver” found only in the mines of Khazad-dûm (Moria); harder than steel and of a shine that never diminished. (The name translates as “grey-gleam”.) It brought the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm untold riches over the course of the First Age and was, besides nostalgia for their ancient home, the main draw in all of their later attempts to return to Moria, even after having been driven out by Orcs and by the Balrog that came to be known as Durin’s Bane for having killed the Dwarf-king Durin VI.
In the Second Age, the mithril vein of Moria also drew the Ñoldor under Celebrimbor to Eregion; the Elves fashioned from it a material known as ithildin (“star-moon”), visible only by moon- and starlight and after the right words of lore had been spoken; ithildin was frequently used in protected gateways.
One of the Elven Rings of Power, Nenya (the ring later coming to Galadriel) was made from mithril, and so were the helms of the Guards of the Citadel at Gondor.
Probably the legendarium’s most famous item made from mithril, though, is the mail shirt — originally made for a young Elven prince — that was found in the treasure at Mount Doom, and which Thorin Oakenshield gave to Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf later commented that the shirt’s worth was “greater than the value of the Shire.” Bilbo wore it during the Battle of the Five Armies and on his return trip to Hobbiton and later took it to Rivendell, where he passed it on to his nephew. Frodo, in turn, wore the mail shirt while the Fellowship was attacked by Orcs in the Mines of Moria, where it saved his life; but the Orcs took it from him when they captured and took him to Cirith Ungol after he had been stung, incapacitated and cocooned by Shelob. However, the Orcs’ subsequent quarrel over his mithril shirt allowed Sam to rescue him; and though the shirt was by this time on its way to Barad-dûr, and was later used by the Mouth of Sauron to demonstrate to Gandalf and Aragorn that “the (one) Halfling” had been captured in Mordor, Gandalf reclaimed the shirt from Sauron’s emissary and returned it to Frodo after he and Sam had been rescued from Mount Doom by the Eagles. When at last Frodo and his Hobbit friends returned to the Shire, the mithril shirt once more saved his life when he ws attacked by Saruman (now known as Sharkey) in an altercation that Saruman himself — or his incarnation in Middle-earth — would not come to survive.