There are many biblical references to gemstones but the most important are
considered to be Aaron's breastplate (Exodus 28: 15-20 and 39:10-13), the stones
in the foundations of the wall of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:18-21), and the
precious stones that were among the King of Tyre's treasures (Ezekiel 28:13).
Aaron was Moses' brother and led the tribe of the high priests. His breastplate
is one of the earliest accounts of an array of gemstones as decoration and
symbols. It is described in the Bible as the breastplate of judgment or
decision. It had twelve precious gems, one for each of the Israelite tribes, and
was inscribed with their names. The stones were set in four rows: a sardius,
topaz, and carbuncle in the first row; an emerald, sapphire and diamond in the
second; a ligure, agate, and amethyst in the third; and a beryl, onyx, and
jasper in the fourth row. Each stone was set with an ouch, or clasp or buckle,
From the time of Aaron in the 13th century BC, high priests wore a breastplate
or gorget of cloth similar to that worn by Aaron. The priests wore these
garments whenever they were communicating with God over the course the
Israelites should take. Josephus felt that the breastplate represented the
earth, and the priest's girdle as the ocean that went around it. He took the
twelve stones to be the months or Zodiac signs. The priests' bells and
pomegranates represented thunder and lighting, and their headdress signified
After Solomon's temple was destroyed and the Jews were taken captive to Babylon
in the 6th century BCE, they always hoped for Jerusalem's restoration.
Successive foundations of the wall of New Jerusalem were garnished with various
precious stones. From the first foundation to the twelfth foundation, stones
used were jasper, sapphire, chalcedony,
emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolyte, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and
amethyst respectively.The wall itself was made of jasper. The stones are very
similar to those worn by Aaron and successive high priests.
In reference to the treasures of Hiram I, 10th century king of Tyre, Ezekiel
(28:13) describes the Garden of Eden as having "every precious stone", including
beryl, carbuncle, diamond, emerald, gold, jasper, onyx, sapphire, sardius, and
topaz, and that "the workmanship of thy tablets and of thy pipes was prepared in
thee in the day that thou was created". Tyre was the center of a large trading
empire which traded with Egypt, Arabia, and Mesopotamia and the king became
quite rich. Hiram helped Solomon build his temple.
Let's now turn to the major individual precious stones mentioned in these three
important biblical references and the significance of each gem.
the second stone in the third row of the breastplate and thought to represent
the Aser tribe of the Israelites. The stone was associated with health,
longevity, and wealth. It was brought to Palestine by merchants from places such
as Babylonia, Persia, Saba, and Reema in their caravans (Ezekiel 27:22). Agate
was considered to have medicinal powers into the Middle Ages, supposedly
countering poisons, contagious diseases, and fever. Agate comes in various
bright colors. Red agate was meant to improve eyesight.
the Issachar tribe. It appears in the breastplate, the wall foundations, and
among the king's treasure. This stone was thought to prevent intoxication.
Drinkers would wear an amulet of amethyst for this reason. It is supposed to
provide deep and pure love. It is a brilliant purple, close to the color of red
thought to represent the Nephtali tribe and is in the breastplate and the wall
foundations. It can be pale blue to yellowy green, although it can also be white
or rose. It relates to happiness and everlasting youth.
to the tribe of Juda, is in the top row in the breastplate, and in the King of
Tyre's treasure. It is a glittering red color. Holding it up to the sun makes it
look like burning coal.
a blood red color or it can be a pale skin color, and is in the first stone (sard)
in the breastplate. It also appears in the king's treasure, and in the celestial
city's wall foundations. Carnelian was an important stone in preventing
one of the stones in the wall foundations. It is milky or grayish in color and
is translucent. It was supposed to get rid of depression.
to the tribe of Zabulon.It is a stone in the foundations of the wall. Orangey
yellow in color, it gladdened the heart, helped people get over a fear of the
dark, and drove away the devil. It was supposed to cure eye diseases.
a green agate and is a foundation stone.
in the breastplate and one of the precious stones in the king's treasure. It
signifies purity, preserves peace, and prevents storms.
represented by the tribe of Levy. It is in the breastplate, the wall
foundations, and the Tyre treasures. It glitters and is a brilliant green.
Emerald is actually a green beryl. It was supposed to preserve or restore sight.
It signifies immortality and incorruptibility.
a foundation stone. It is reddish-orange in color and gave second sight.
in the breastplate and represents the Benjamin tribe. The New Jerusalem wall
itself was made of jasper. It is opaque, comes in most colors, and gives courage
a stone in the breastplate and the wall foundations, and relates to the tribe of
in the breastplate and belongs to the Joseph tribe. It relates to marital
happiness. Its color is white and black, and sometimes includes brown.
found in the breastplate, wall foundations, and king's treasure. It represents
the Dan tribe. It is a beautiful blue color and promotes constancy, truth, and
features in all three of the important biblical references to precious stones.
It signifies friendship and happiness.
There are various other biblical references to the gemstones found in the
priests' breastplate, New Jerusalem's wall foundations, and the King of Tyre's
treasures, as well as to other stones, but these three and their stones are
generally regarded as the most important.