Silly question (you've been warned).

Let's say the magic users of my world devised a way to place lasting charms on people - by tattooing them. That process involves specifically prepared inks involving spell components, notably crushed gems. Now, they perfected that process, so it's safe if done by someone who actually studied the procedure and is being careful.

But arcane studies requires... well, studying, and not everyone can afford the money or time to be trained in the mystical arts. Let's say some yahoo with a poke stick, no brain and zero magic knowledge hears about the process and go "Oh, I can totally crush gemstones and put the powder in my ink to make magic tattoos!"1

I would assume this is bad2, but apparently, it's not a trivial question (see "road tattoos") since you can have foreign object stuck under your skin with minimal consequences3. What range of consequences should we expect from such a procedure?

Please, answer based on actual-real world medicine, no magic involved here, only regular biology. As pointed in comment and for the sake of narrowing it down, let's restrict the list to precious stones (diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald as per definition).

1: Yeah, that's a very dumb idea. Which means someone is bound to do it.
2: I know a bit about tattoos infections, having been tattooed.
3: I looked online, but believe it or not, nobody bothered to make a studies about precious stone in tattoo and long lasting effects. Lots of conflicting results.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It looks like you're wanting us to brainstorm answers to a question involving magical consequences. Questions asking for unbounded lists like this tend to be very broad and attract many opinion based answers. Please remember that if a question has many valid answers than it's probably too broad for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 15 '21 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ It's specifically said "Please, answer based on actual-real world medicine, no magic involved here, only regular biology." and tagged [science-based], [biology] and [medicine]. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Oct 15 '21 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ So in essence you're asking what can go wrong with a tattoo? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 15 '21 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ What gems specifically? Since there are thousands of gem types it gets a bit unwieldy as a question, can you narrow it lots? Also worth looking at what inks are already made of - there's plenty of toxic stuff to chose from. Perhaps decide what effects you might like and then we could help you find something that fits. $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '21 at 4:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's still pretty broad, as A Rogue Ant mentions. But it's much more specific than my first, or second readings of the question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 15 '21 at 4:05

Besides the health consequences of regular tattoos and low-quality tattoos, not many, even fewer.

Aluminum oxide, the main component of rubies and sapphires is considered inert (and frequently used for implants with essentially no ill effects).

Emerald is basically a silicate, which is also largely inert with regards to being under your skin (or even over your skin or in your mouth - silicates are common ingredients in cosmetics). It would be an occupational hazard for the person crushing the gems and preparing the pigments as they're exposed to the dust

Diamond is basically pure carbon in a crystalline form, which makes it also very inert.

Depending on the quality level of the gems and the pigment made with them, I'd expect some allergic contact dermatitis if the gems in question contain traces of other elements like nickel, chromium, or even gold, AND the person receiving the tattoo is allergic

  • $\begingroup$ I'd be careful saying silicates are inert. Silicosis is a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 15 '21 at 6:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch That would be an occupational hazard of the person preparing the pigment more than the person receiving the tattoo, I'll include that in the answer, but I don't expect skin reactions (as it would be the equivalent of having very small grains of sand under your skin) $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '21 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ "not many, even fewer." I wouldn't be that sure. Maybe avoid Cinnabar (mercury),Crocoite (lead and hexavalent chromium), Legrandite (arsenic), Mimetite (lead and arsenic), Realgar (arsenic), Stolzite (lead). Plus a good amount of copper based gemstones - not necessary toxic in small doses but not very good for your health in larger amounts. $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '21 at 10:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi That's a good addition, but I'm only discussing the 4 gems OP listed in the answer. Also note that many of those minerals you mention WERE used in the past for regular tattoos $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '21 at 13:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .