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Gemstones in the Bible- What is a Jacinth?
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Gemstones in the Bible- What is a Jacinth?
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Gemstones in the Bible- What is a Jacinth?

By Debbie Elaine


Many people don’t realize that gemstones (crystals) are mentioned quite a few times in the Bible until, like me, they start looking for them! They’re in traditional hymn texts, too—my husband has gotten used to my huge grin and nudge when I come across references like “crystal fountain” in the middle of singing, and it makes me wonder why we don’t hear more about this. So I decided to do a little research myself, which I will share with you here, with links for you to explore further, if you are interested in doing so.

One major place of crystal references in the Bible* comes in Exodus, when the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle were constructed with VERY specific directions of exact dimensions and specific materials to be used. Wood and gold were used a lot. Altar utensils were bronze. Blue, purple and scarlet linen were used. As a child, I thought this was just some Heavenly bossiness to get the Israelites to follow directions. But since doing energy work, I look at this differently. If there is to be a connection to Divine energy, these are wonderful materials to use. Gold is purifying. Purple works with the Crown chakra and draws in spiritual energy. Blue works with the Throat chakra and scarlet (red) is grounding. This, I think, is perfect for a group of people who are to be led through the wilderness by someone receiving (or channeling, really) directions from on High and sharing them with the people. Guidance was to be received, spoken and carried out on Earth. Purple, blue and scarlet were the perfect colors to energetically support this.

Now on to the gemstones in Aaron and his sons’ priestly garments (Exodus 28). First, was the ephod, which was a ceremonial garment, often associated with oracles, and was also to be made of purple, blue and scarlet cloth. (Apparently ephods had lots of other specific uses at other times, but that’s an article for someone else to write.) There was to be an Onyx gemstone on each shoulder of the garment with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved--six on each on them. Here’s where things get tough: different sources give different possibilities for the translation of what these stones were. Some say it may have been Malachite**; some say Onyx+.  Interestingly, both stones are considered highly protective. So either way, these pieces would have been programmed (via engraving) to send energy to the twelve tribes of Israel.   

Much of the difficulty with identifying exactly what stones were meant in these passages is that ancient people did not have the methods of stone identification available to them that we have available today. So, often they were named by color. Thus, a “Garnet” might simply have been a red gemstone.+ Other methods of identifying the actual crystals used include historians looking into what was mined in that part of the world at various points in history, to know if a particular crystal mentioned was even available; and cross-referencing Biblical stone references to other artifacts and writings from that era and region. For example, if we know that particular artifacts from the same era and locale definitely contained Crystal A, B and C - because we actually have those artifacts and have tested them with modern methods - but texts from that era, about those artifacts call them all Crystal A; that is where the problem with identity arises.

Getting back to the crystals in the Bible…next came the “breastplate of judgment” that was to be worn by the priest, Aaron (Exodus 28: 15-30).  This also had the same colors of cloth, included specific things to be made of gold and was to have four rows of three stones per row attached to it. One gemstone was to represent each of the tribes of Israel. Again, there are some differences between sources when translating the names of some of these stones, but it is interesting to see what the specific gemstones were and to ponder why they might have been chosen. You can click on the link to more information for most of the crystals listed.

Row 1: Sardius, Topaz and Carbuncle

Sardius is thought by some to be Carnelian, or similar to Carnelian, but a darker red.**

Topaz, given what was mined where at the time, is believed to be Peridot.+

Carbuncle was a term for red stones and so is thought to be either Ruby or Garnet.**

Row 2: Emerald, Sapphire, Diamond

Emeraldswere well known in that region at that time.

Sapphirein the Hebrew texts is generally accepted to be what we know as Lapis Lazuli because the Blue Sapphire of today was not mined in that region, and other texts refer to it having sparkling inclusions being like the night sky, which could only be Lapis Lazuli.+**

Diamond - interestingly enough, in this passage, there are indications in the original language that it was a colored stone, and Jasper was sometimes substituted for Diamond. So, this is thought to be a type of Jasper, not a Diamond.**

Row 3: Jacinth, Agate, Amethyst

Jacinth is another reddish-orange stone. There does not seem to be a known equivalent in today’s language.

Agateand Amethyst were both well-known and often-used gemstones in this part of the ancient world.

Row 4: Beryl, Onyx, Jasper

Beryls common in that time and region included Aquamarine and Emerald.+ However, some sources believe “Beryl” was used to describe color and brightness (in this case, yellow), not actual Beryl, and believe this stone was actually what we know as Yellow Jasper.**

Onyx was most likely Black Onyx, as the term “Sardonyx” was used for Banded Onyx.

Jasper in this usage, was actually a fairly rare, Green Chalcedony.**

So there you have it. A “Diamond” that was actually Jasper; a “Jasper” that was really Chalcedony and a “Sapphire” that was actually Lapis Lazuli. This reinforces for me why it is so difficult to identify crystals by sight alone. Weight, luster, hardness and composition really are all important parts of identifying crystals accurately. Still, I find it fascinating to think about the crystals that were part of ancient rituals and spiritual practices. Blessings for your journey~ 



*The Revised Standard Version of the Bible was used for this article.


** The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: an Illustrated Encyclopedia, Abington Press.

Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore, Revised Edition. Bruce G. Knuth. Jeweler’s Press, Colorado.


Posted on July 27, 2014
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