Diamonds and Emeralds

Gemstones in the Bible

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Diamonds

Even though diamonds were likely not in the High Priest's breastplate (see our section on rock crystals), this does not preclude the use of this precious stone for other Biblical purposes such as adorning a newly-created Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:13). God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, stated the following regarding the sins committed by the Kingdom of Judah.

1. "The sin of Judah is engraved with a pen of iron, with the point of a diamond (Hebrew shamiyr, Strong's Concordance #H8068); it is carved upon the tablet of their heart and upon the horns of your altars . . ." (Jeremiah 17:1, HBFV)

The Hebrew word from which "diamond" is derived above means pricking, like a thorn or thorn bush, or something that is sharp (Strong's and BDB lexicon). As an interesting side note, this gemstone is NOT mentioned as one of the many precious minerals God will use to make the twelve foundations use in constructing the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:19 - 21).

Diamonds are the hardest mineral known, possessing a Mohs hardness scale rating of ten. Engagement rings made of this rare gemstone have been popular from at least the 15th century.

According to a 2013 USGS minerals yearbook report, world natural diamond production stood at 130 million carats. The biggest producers of such stones (in decreasing order) were Russia, Botswana, Congo, Australia and Canada, which together generated 76% of the world's supply.

Find a Gem

Here is a trivia question that is both fun and profitable. Where is the ONLY place in the entire world where you can hunt for diamonds for a tiny fee and KEEP what you find?

In the United States, the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas is the world's eighth largest volcanic crater that has produced these rare stones. The park offers the public the chance to search for this valuable precious stone and even offers free identification and certification of the raw gems that are found. From 1972 (the year the area became a state park) to 2013, 30,891 of these rough stones have been discovered with a total weight of about 6,173 carats (USGS 2013 Minerals Yearbook for Gemstones).

Diamond in Kimberlite
Diamond in Kimberlite
Courtesy of Smithsonian GeoGallery

Diamond Folklore

Because of this gemstone's many desirable characteristics (clarity, purity, hardness, rarity, etc.) it had many powers and abilities attributed to it.

This gemstone was considered an emblem of invincibility and fearlessness. It gave the wearer courage, extra strength and the stamina to be victorious. It could drive away nighttime evil spirits and ghosts, bring good luck to a person, and even make someone invisible! This gem was also believed to have reproductive powers. Diamonds were associated with lightning and believed to be products of electrical strikes.

Like the turquoise, diamonds were thought to lose their talisman-like powers if they were bought. Only stones received as a gift, it was believed, would retain their supernatural abilities (Curious Lore of Precious Stones, pages 69 - 73).

When did the devil fall like lightning from heaven?
What does SILVER symbolize?
What does Scripture say about wedding rings?

Emeralds

The designation of the carbuncle and emerald in the priest's breastplate is a classic example of the difficulty of accurately translating words from one language to another.

The Hebrew word from which we get the English word "carbuncle" is bareqath (Strong's Concordance #H1304), which means a gem that flashes, glitters or sparkles. This stone is the last one listed in the first row of the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17, 39:10) and is the last stone listed as adorning Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:13). This word is translated "carbuncle" in the ASV, ESV, HBFV, and KJV for Exodus 28:17. The NKJV, HCSB, NASB, and NLT translations, however, render the word as "emerald," while the NIV translates it as "beryl" (emeralds are nothing more than a green variety of beryl) and the NCV has "yellow quartz."

In Ezekiel 28, where bareqath is also used to designate the ninth and final stone that adorned Lucifer, it is translated "carbuncle" in the ASV, ESV and KJV, but as "emerald" in the HBFV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and NLT. The NIV translates the word as "beryl" while the NCV renders it "chrysolite."

Disagreements also exist among Biblical commentaries as to which modern gem bareqath is referencing. Some lean toward red-colored gemstones such as the red garnet, while others suggest that a more accurate translation would be the green-colored emerald.

In the New Testament, the fourth foundational stone in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19) is referred to by the Greek word smaragdos (Strong's #G4665). Both Strong's Concordance and Thayer's lexicon define this word as referring to a green colored gem. All ten Bible translations used for comparison in this series translate this word as "emerald." A good case can be made for the gemstone mentioned last in the first row of the breastplate being this precious stone and not a carbuncle.

"The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament made in the third century B.C.), Josephus (Jewish historian who wrote in the first century A.D.) and the Vulgate versions of the Scriptures (late fourth-century Latin translation of Scripture made by Jerome) all render the Hebrew word as "smaragdos," "smaragdus," "emerald," and the correctness of this is not disputed by modern scholars." (Gemstones in the Breastplate, page 16)

The evidence suggests that bareqath is best rendered as "emerald" in Exodus 28:17, 39:10 and Ezekiel 28:13. In modern times, quality gemstones made from this mineral come primarily from Colombia.

An 858 carat emerald
858 carat Emerald

Emerald Folklore

Anciently, this stone represented youth. The corpse of those who died young sometimes had an emerald stone ring placed on their index finger as a sign that their hope in life perished early. This gem was thought to predict future events, though the mechanism through which they conveyed this information is unknown. This gemstone was also believed to improve the wearer's memory, made them wealthy, improved their thinking abilities and make them a better speaker. Rabbinic legend states that God gave King Solomon four gemstones that gave him the power to rule over all creation. One of these stones is believed to have been an emerald (Curious Lore of Precious Stones, pages 31, 76 - 79).

According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on precious gemstones, emeralds in the Middle Ages were also attributed with the ability to heal a person's eyesight.

Additional Study Materials
What do COLORS mean in God's word?
Does Satan sit on God's LEFT hand?
Where does Scripture say GOLD is located?

Gemstones in the Bible
Series Introduction

Precious Stones in the Breastplate
Gems in New Jerusalem

Primary Sources

1913 Catholic Encyclopedia
Curious Lore of Precious Stones, 1913 edition
Diamonds, Pearls and Precious Stones, 1913 edition
Gemstones in the Breastplate, 2008 edition
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
United States Geological Survey
Gemdat.org - Mindat.org - Wikipedia


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Diamonds and Emeralds
in the Bible