Precious and Semi-Precious Stones: A Primer

by cmoneyspinner

The Bible is a Holy Book for many people, but it is also a great literary and reference work, loaded with wonderful imagery and information such as the names of precious stones.

There is a story about a well-known millionaire who was having trouble sleeping one night. He picked up the Bible and started reading. He came across a passage that made him go … Hmmmm?? He followed through on the lead by traveling to the name of the place that was mentioned and discovered oil. The name of the millionaire and the city are not important. The point to be made is that the scriptures are an incredible storehouse of information about people, places and things. It may not make you wealthy but it's very educational and can help with your shopping.


Precious and semi-precious stones are often alluded to in the Bible.  The mention of the stones is sometimes figurative or poetical; but the gemstones are very real.  We know from archaeological digs that they were highly valued and used from the earliest times for rings, seals, jewelry, etc.  In reading the books of Exodus (Old Testament) and Revelation (New Testament), I counted a total of seventeen (17) different stones.  Twelve (12) stones were on the breastplate of the Jewish high priest, each engraved with the name of one of the tribes.  Seven (7) of the stones plus 5 more stones [another 12] are included in the description of the walls of Heavenly Jerusalem.  When viewing the list below, take note that one asterisk (*) indicates that the stone was part of the breastplate; two (**) means it was part of the wall; and no asterisk means both the breastplate and the wall have the same stones.  Just for grins I also associated the birth month.  You can’t find info about birth months in the Bible.  That’s a man-made tradition but a very lovely one.  Don’t you agree?? 


Diamond, Emerald and Sapphire

DIAMOND(*) - Diamond is harder than any other known substance and is an extremely valuable precious stone of pure carbon crystallized in the cubic system. 80% of the world’s supply of rough diamonds comes from Sierra Leone (a fact extracted from a James Bond movie). Global Witness was one of the first organizations to focus the world’s attention to the problem of “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds”, sold in order to fund armed conflict. It continues to be a subject of great controversy. [ ] (April)


EMERALD - Emerald is among the most prized gemstones and according to archaeological findings it dates back 5000 years to Egypt and India. It’s easy to believe that its strikingly beautiful green color could have inspired Frank Baum to create “The Emerald City”, the fictional capital city in the Land of Oz, described in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. Found also in Cyprus and Ethiopia during ancient times, and in South America during modern times; it is second in value only to the diamond. (May)


SAPPHIRE - Sapphire (from sappheiros, meaning "blue stone") is an absolutely gorgeous gemstone; a precious stone of transparent blue corundum, its color is due to traces of cobalt. Per, there are sapphires that are other colors: pink, green, purple, etc. There are also star-crossed sapphires. The stone looks like it has a star in the middle of it. Stunning! There is some dispute as to whether sapphire referred to in the scriptures is the modern sapphire as we know it. Some believe the reference is to the lapis lazuli, a comparatively rare semi-precious stone which has been highly esteemed since antiquity, from Mesopotamia, to Egypt, to Persia, to Greece, to Rome. The name “lapis lazuli” also means "stone of blue" (Latin for stone; and "azul", Arabic which means blue). (September)


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Amethyst, Beryl and Carbuncle

AMETHYST - Amethyst is the most highly valued of the semiprecious quartzes. It is a form of transparent quartz that comes in varying shades of light pinkish violet to a deep purple. It is popular and widely available. Some believe it has healing properties and have credited it with curing a range of ailments – from relieving stress to overcoming alcohol and drug addictions. (February)


BERYL - Beryl is an important gem mineral with many varieties that are distinguished by their color.  However, gemologists say this gem in its pure form is actually colorless and that traces of different “impurities” account for the color diversity and varieties.  Nevertheless, the two most popular color varieties are emerald (the green variety) and aquamarine (the blue to blue-green variety).  But I rather fancy the yellow beryl. (October/November – linked to the Zodiac)


CARBUNCLE(*) - Carbuncle is a precious stone of a deep red color, commonly called a garnet. In mineralogy, it is a deep red, cabochon-cut almandine, which is an iron aluminum garnet. (RE: “cabochon-cut”. Cabochons are not really "cut"; the stones are shaped and polished.)



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Agate, Chrysoprasus, Jasper, Onyx, Sardius, Sardonyx

CHALCEDONY(**) - The name chalcedony is derived from Chalcedon, a city in Asia Minor. It’s a generic descriptive term that encompasses several varieties of quartz gemstones.  Agate, chrysoprasus, jasper, onyx, sardius (or carnelian stone), and sardonyx are all varieties of chalcedony. This stone has a waxy luster, is translucent and fine-grained, and occurs in various colors.

  • AGATE(*) - Agate comes from the Greek; named for the river Achates in Sicily where this stone is abundant. It can also be found in Arabia, Egypt and India. This gemstone is creatively striped by nature in varicolored layers. (June)
  • CHRYSOPRASUS ( or CHRYSOPRASE)(**) - Chrysoprasus is a very rare form of quartz; it contains small quantities of nickel and has a light green color. Some describe the color as golden green or apple green. Chrysoprase is a cryptocrystalline, which means that it’s composed of submicroscopic crystals, i.e. too small to be seen by the naked eye. Pieces of jewelry made using this stone have been uncovered in ancient Egyptian graves. During the Middle Ages, it was very precious because it shined on the dark.
  • JASPER - Jasper is a type of microcrystalline quartz, an opaque variety of reddish, brown or green, yellow chalcedony; sometimes white, but seldom blue. It is not a rare stone, inexpensive and often used to make small ornamental objects like ashtrays, candlesticks, ceramics, and jewelry. When heated, it will become clear and look like a diamond. (March)
  • ONYX(*) - The onyx stone has contrasting layers of differing colors in parallel lines; usually black and white or brown and white; although many people think of onyx as solid black. Onyx is not just used for jewelry but also for home décor items and ornaments. It has also been for engraving seals. According to the Old Testament book of Genesis, it was a part of the treasures from Havilah.(July)
  • SARDIUS - Sardius, in the past, was once highly valued Egyptians, Tibetans and India. It is a red stone, a form of chalcedony, which some call carnelian (a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone). The Hebrew word "odem" translated sardius. Archaeologists have unearthed several items of jewelry made from this stone in cities and tombs of Palestine and Egypt. The name was given to this stone at Sardis in Lydia where it was worked and engraved. It can vary in color from pale yellow to reddish orange.
  • SARDONYX(**) - Sardonyx is a variety of onyx; there are layers of orange-red sard and white chalcedony; an ornamental stone that is often used for seals and cameos. The array of color layers go from translucent to opaque. Sardonyx has a brown base, whereas onyx has a black base. (August)


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Chrysolyte, Jacinth, Ligure, and Topaz

CHRYSOLYTE(**) - Chrysolyte is a transparent precious stone with a fine luster that has the color of gold mixed with green. The name comes from the Greek for “golden stone” and it is often compared to topaz or some other yellow gem. (September)


JACINTH(**) - Jacinth (or hyacinth) is dark purple; but when heated it loses its color and resembles the diamond. There is also a yellow-orange variety of zircon called jacinth. Various sources indicate the terms jacinth and hyacinth are no longer used in the gem trade, but they have historical importance.


LIGURE(*) - Ligure in Hebrew is “leshem”. The 12 Tribes of Israel had emblems (or symbols) and the ligure stone was for the tribe of Ephraim. It was considered to be a stone of mystery. Mysterious indeed.  Try to pin down precise information about this stone. Some refer to it as a jacinth; others as a brown agate.  I say:  Eh! What's life without a little mystery?


TOPAZ - Topaz is a form of chrysolyte, and its most common color is wine-yellow though it can be found in white, pink, green, or blue. Topazios is the Greek name for St. John's Island in the Red Sea, Egypt, where topaz is found. This gem is also found in other parts of the world such as Brazil, Australia, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. (November)



The exact date for when the custom or practice of using gems for personal adornments or giving them as gifts is unknown. Sumerian jewelry was found at Ur that dated back to 2500 B.C. The Egyptians have been credited with developing the art of making jewelry. (See Symbolism of Egyptian Jewelry.)  Since ancient times, gems or ornaments made from them have had political and religious significance. Signet rings were once commonly used for business purposes. Some people believed (and still believe) precious stones have magical or healing powers.

Learning a little about these various stones was very interesting and thought provoking.  One of the thoughts it conjured up was an image of the builder of The Emerald City throwing his hands up in the air and exclaiming:  "I'm beat!  The "Most Worthy Architect' award goes to whoever can build that wall!" :)

Figurative or literal; my studies of precious and semi-precious gemstones led me to one conclusion.  They are undeniably so very pretty, aren't they?

Peridot gemstone jewelry makes a perfect gift for the August birthday or the 16th wedding anniversary.
If you ever looked for a diamond alternative, a moissanite gemstone very likely popped among the first candidates.
Seraphinite is a beautiful and unusual semiprecious stone, one that is only being more commonly found in jewelry designs today. Learn more about Seraphinite and shop for beautiful

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The research has been done! Are there any mystery writers in the house? A fantasy writer might find this information useful as well.

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Updated: 06/02/2021, cmoneyspinner
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cmoneyspinner on 09/16/2013

@Rose - Thanks for visiting! :)
@Holistic_Health - Red is my favorite color! :)

Rose on 09/15/2013

So many beautiful unusual stones - some of which I hadn't heard of before. Makes a lovely change.

Holistic_Health on 07/06/2013

Very informative - I've been reading up on gemstones and their healing powers so this more great info for me. You chose some nice selections too. That red Sardonyx is stunning.

cmoneyspinner on 06/05/2013

@katiem2 - Thanks for the TWEET. That's awesome! :)

katiem2 on 06/05/2013

What a delightful story and the facts about semi precious stones and the like. All the glorious treasure of this world were created with careful purpose to bring us joy and exactly what we need if we only open our eyes to the details or perhaps the possibilities. Just had to give this a tweet.

cmoneyspinner on 05/18/2013

@Tolovaj - Yes I have heard people refer to the Bible as the book of books. It is quite a comprehensive library.

@Mira - I think you're the first person I've met from Bucharest. Nice to meet you! When I was a kid stringing beads into necklaces was one of my favorite things to do. I sometimes think about taking up jewelry-making as a hobby / income home business project. Still thinking on it.

Thank you both for visiting!

Mira on 05/18/2013

Gems are wonderful, and part of what's wonderful about them is that there are so many of them :) Then there are so many ways to make a necklace with these gems. The Geology Museum here in Bucharest holds exhibitions on various occasions throughout the year. I'll try to take some pictures next time, although it's difficult, because artists don't want their designs copies (same with clothes, etc.).

Tolovaj on 05/18/2013

I was always fascinated with gemstones and have visited several exhibitions. When I entered college, crystallography was one of the subjects in third year and I was hardly waiting to get there. Unfortunately lectures were reduced to boring math...
Maybe we should include Bible too? I've heard about the man who have built a financial empire buying and selling on stock exchange solely on hints from the Bible? Isn't it called the book of the books?

CherylsArt on 05/17/2013

Interesting topic. I had never considered the Bible as a resource to find out about gem stones.

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