JEWELS AND PRECIOUS STONES
A jewel may be a precious stone, a gem (a cut and polished precious or semiprecious stone) or a decorative ornament made of precious metal (principally gold or silver) set with such stones. Jewels have been worn by both men and women from early Biblical days for purposes of adornment. Today the diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire are strictly considered to be precious stones, whereas other rare and beautiful stones are viewed as semiprecious. However, the Hebrew term rendered “precious stone” has a broader application, as shown at Ezekiel 28:12, 13. These precious stones are distinguished from other minerals chiefly because they are rare, beautiful and durable.
The first Biblical reference to any precious stone is at Genesis 2:11, 12, where Havilah is identified as a land containing good gold, “bdellium gum and the onyx stone.”
Wealth was partially measured by one’s possession of precious stones, such kings as Solomon and Hezekiah apparently having them in great quantity. (1 Ki. 10:11; 2 Chron. 9:10; 32:27) Precious stones were given as gifts (1 Ki. 10:2, 10; 2 Chron. 9:1, 9), might constitute part of war booty (2 Sam. 12:29, 30; 1 Chron. 20:2) and were articles of trade, as among the ancient Tyrians. (Ezek. 27:16, 22) In an inspired dirge concerning the “king of Tyre” Ezekiel stated: “Every precious stone was your covering, ruby, topaz and jasper; chrysolite, onyx and jade; sapphire, turquoise and emerald; and of gold was the workmanship of your settings and your sockets in you.” (Ezek. 28:12, 13) Symbolic Babylon the Great is represented as being richly adorned with precious stones.—Rev. 17:3-5; 18:11-17.
FASHIONING OF JEWELRY
Since ancient times, jewelers of Biblical lands have fashioned decorative ornaments, frequently studded with precious stones. Excavations at Ur of the Chaldeans, where Abraham once lived, have yielded many jewels and ornamental objects, such as strings of beads of gold, silver, agate, cornelian, chalcedony and lapis lazuli, found in the burial site of Sumerian queen Shub-ad. The many jewels and ornaments found in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen included jeweled breastplates and bracelets. On the king’s mummy there were thirteen bracelets made of gold, glass beads and semiprecious stones. Among the items discovered in the tomb was a throne covered with gold and silver and studded with jewels.
While the ancients rounded and polished precious stones, generally they do not seem to have angled or faceted them, as do craftsmen of modern times. The emery stone (corundum) or emery powder was employed by the Hebrews and Egyptians to polish precious stones. Often these were sculptured and engraved. The Hebrews apparently knew how to engrave precious stones long before their bondage in Egypt, where engraving was also an art. Judah’s seal ring had evidently been engraved. (Gen. 38:18) For further discussions of ancient jewelry and ornaments, see ORNAMENTS; ANKLET; BEADS; BRACELET; BROOCH; EARRING; NECKLACE; NOSE RING; RING.
USES ASSOCIATED WITH WORSHIP
The Israelites, in the wilderness, were privileged to contribute various valuable things for the tabernacle and the high priest’s ephod and breastpiece, no doubt using for such contributions articles given to them by the Egyptians when urging them to depart. (Ex. 12:35, 36) These included “onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.” (Ex. 25:1-7; 35:5, 9, 27) His ephod had two onyx stones on the shoulder pieces, with the names of six of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on each stone. The “breastpiece of judgment” was embellished with four rows of precious stones, the account stating: “A row of ruby, topaz and emerald was the first row. And the second row was turquoise, sapphire and jasper. And the third row was leshʹem stone, agate and amethyst. And the fourth row was chrysolite and onyx and jade. They were set with settings of gold in their fillings.” The name of one of Israel’s twelve tribes was inscribed on each of these stones.—Ex. 39:6-14; 28:9-21; see BREASTPIECE.
Though Jehovah would not permit David to build the temple in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 22:6-10), the aged king joyfully prepared valuable materials for its construction, including “onyx stones, and stones to be set with hard mortar, and mosaic pebbles, and every precious stone, and alabaster stones in great quantity.” He made substantial contributions of materials, and the people in general also contributed. (1 Chron. 29:2-9) When Solomon built the temple he “overlaid the house with precious stone for beauty,” or studded it with precious stones.—2 Chron. 3:6.
In connection with the Christian ministry, the apostle Paul, after identifying Jesus Christ as the foundation on which Christians should build, mentioned building materials of various kinds. He indicated that the choice materials would include figurative “precious stones” capable of withstanding the force of “fire.”—1 Cor. 3:10-15.
Precious stones are sometimes used Scripturally to symbolize qualities of heavenly or spiritual things or persons. The heavens were opened for Ezekiel and in two visions he beheld four winged living creatures accompanied by four wheels, the appearance of each wheel being likened to “the glow of chrysolite,” that is, having a hue of yellow, or possibly green. (Ezek. 1:1-6, 15, 16; 10:9) Later, Daniel saw an angel, “a certain man clothed in linen,” whose “body was like chrysolite.”—Dan. 10:1, 4-6.
Ezekiel also, when beholding a vision of Jehovah’s glory, saw “something in appearance like sapphire stone [a deep blue], the likeness of a throne.” (Ezek. 1:25-28; 10:1) The glory of Jehovah God himself is likened to the dazzling beauty of gem stones, for when the apostle John beheld God’s heavenly throne, he said: “The one seated is, in appearance, like a jasper stone and a precious red-colored stone, and round about the throne there is a rainbow like an emerald in appearance.”—Rev. 4:1-3, 9-11.
“The holy city, New Jerusalem,” that is, “the Lamb’s wife,” is represented as having a radiance “like a most precious stone, as a jasper stone shining crystal-clear.” The twelve foundations of its wall “were adorned with every sort of precious stone,” a different stone for each foundation: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, hyacinth and amethyst. The city’s twelve gates were twelve pearls.—Rev. 21:2, 9-21; see CORAL and separate articles on individual types of precious stones.