The Bible mentions gemstones many times throughout its pages, two of the most notable are the breastplate of the High Priest and the foundational walls of New Jerusalem.
Throughout time and translation, the identification of certain gemstones is uncertain as some stones were described with words that defined color or beauty. The stones featured in this article are found directly in the scriptures of the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.
According to the book of Exodus, the hoshen was a sacred breastplate first worn by Aaron, brother of Moses and the first high priest of the Israelite's. The breastplate was part of the ephod, a priestly set of garments worn during oracular practices and priestly rituals.
The breastplate featured 12 gemstones adorned in a square pattern, and was at times used to determine God's will in a particular situation. It was also known as the "breastplate of judgment".
The 12 jewels in the breastplate were each, according to the Biblical description, to be made from specific minerals, none of them the same as another, and each of them representative of a specific tribe, whose name was to be inscribed on the stone.
The Urim and Thummim were placed within the breastplate to be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. While no one truly knows what Urim and Thummim were, it is speculated they were small flat objects that would fit in a pocket inside the breastplate and used for divination, these may have been wood, bone, or stone. The word urim means 'lights' and thummin means 'perfections'.
By wearing the breastplate, Aaron always holds over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he went before the Lord.
9 “Take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the tribes of Israel. 10 Six names will be on each stone, arranged in the order of the births of the original sons of Israel. 11 Engrave these names on the two stones in the same way a jeweler engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in settings of gold filigree. 12 Fasten the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod as a reminder that Aaron represents the people of Israel. Aaron will carry these names on his shoulders as a constant reminder whenever he goes before the Lord. 13 Make the settings of gold filigree, 14 then braid two cords of pure gold and attach them to the filigree settings on the shoulders of the ephod.
15 “Then, with great skill and care, make a chest piece to be worn for seeking a decision from God. Make it to match the ephod, using finely woven linen embroidered with gold and with blue, purple, and scarlet thread. 16 Make the chest piece of a single piece of cloth folded to form a pouch nine inches square. 17 Mount four rows of gemstones on it. The first row will contain a red carnelian, a pale-green peridot, and an emerald. 18 The second row will contain a turquoise, a blue lapis lazuli, and a white moonstone. 19 The third row will contain an orange jacinth, an agate, and a purple amethyst. 20 The fourth row will contain a blue-green beryl, an onyx, and a green jasper. All these stones will be set in gold filigree. 21 Each stone will represent one of the twelve sons of Israel, and the name of that tribe will be engraved on it like a seal.
The twelve stones of the breastplate seem to have been considered by the Jews as the most precious. At the time of the Exodus, Egypt was flooded with riches, and we know how the Israelite's on leaving the land possessed themselves of many precious stones, according to the commandment of God (Exodus 3:22, and 12:35-36).
One of the seven Angels shows John the Apostle the new heaven and earth, with God living among his people in the holy city, the New Jerusalem. The city was described in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of walls made with gemstones and pure gold, gates made of pearls.
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.
21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.