Rock (Clear Quartz) Crystal
The last stone listed in the second row of the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18) is called in the Hebrew yahalom (Strong's Concordance #H3095), from a root word which means, "to strike." It is also the third stone that adorned a newly created Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:13). Strong's translates this word as "diamond" while the BDB lexicon states it is a precious stone known for being hard. Seven out of ten Bibles render this word as "diamond" for both verses, with the NCV and NIV versions rendering this word as "emerald" and the NLT calling it a "white moonstone."
Although diamonds seem, based on several major versions of God's word, to be the correct translation of yahalom for the priest's breastplate, there are Biblical authorities that call this decision into question.
"It was doubtless some hard stone; for the original Hebrew term implies striking. But it is questionable whether, in the early ages of the world, the art or cutting and engraving the diamond was understood" (People's Dictionary of the Bible)
"Apparently Alexander the Great around 330 B.C. first discovered diamonds for the western world in India. This would indicate 'diamonds' are not meant in the Old Testament references" (Holman Bible Dictionary)
"There is no trace of evidence that the ancients ever acquired the skill to engrave on the diamond, or even that they were acquainted with the stone. The 'diamond' here may possibly be some variety of chalcedony, or (perhaps) rock crystal" (Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament)
"Almost all authorities are agreed that the art of cutting or engraving diamonds was unknown in the time of Moses. For this reason, it is unlikely the stone in question was a diamond" (Gemstones in the Breastplate, page 21)
The book "Gemstones in the Breastplate" (pages 21 to 23) further makes the case that instead of diamonds a gem known as rock crystal (also referred to as clear Quartz crystal) was used in the breastplate. This stone, appearing clear like diamonds and sometimes used to imitate them, has a Mohs scale hardness value of seven. This would make them easier to engrave upon than a diamond.
Rock (Quartz) Crystal Folklore
Rock Crystals were believed, if put in a person's hand, to be able to waken them from sleep. This gemstone was also thought to have the power, if placed on a person's stomach, to waken them from sleepwalking. An epileptic seizure, however, would ensue if the stone were placed too long against a person. Spheres of rock crystal (a crystal ball) were also used, by those who indulged in the black arts, to pretend to be able to foretell the future. Cherokee Indians in the United States believed the stone had divination powers and could aid them in hunting (Curious Lore of Precious Stones, page 10, 76, 180 and 254).
Rubies, because of their hardness (see our listing for carnelian stones), were likely not the gemstone used in the High Priest's breastplate. This does not preclude, however, its likely use as the first stone God used to adorn Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:13). The Hebrew word odem (Strong's #H124) used in Ezekiel 28 is translated as "ruby" in the HBFV, NASB, NCV and the NIV. It is translated either a sardius or carnelian stone in the six other versions of Scripture used for comparison in this series.
Rubies are also mentioned (depending on the version of Scripture) in other places in God's word.
12. And I will make your high towers of ruby, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your borders of pleasant stones (Isaiah 54:12, HBFV).
16. Syria was your merchant because of the multitude of your works; with emeralds, purple, and embroidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and rubies they gave you for your wares (Ezekiel 27:16, HBFV).
Rubies are a reddish variety of corundum stones, while most other colors of corundum are called sapphires. These types of precious stones have a Mohs hardness value of nine, which makes them the hardest minerals known to exist except for diamonds. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, located in Washington, D.C., houses one of the greatest collections of this rare gem in the world.
Anciently, it was thought that rubies, like diamonds, were created by a bolt of lightning. A popular belief was that this gemstone actually generated light from within itself.
Like all reddish gemstones that resembled the color of blood, this gem was thought to make the wearer invincible to wounds. It also was believed to have the power to make water boil. A 13th century Cashmere physician recorded how this stone was considered a remedy not only for flatulence but also for excess bile. A well-known elixir was also believed to be made from rubies (Curious Lore of Precious Stones, pages 33, 102, 162, 168, 386).