Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stones of the Bible I

Agates are a form of chalcedony (a fine-grained variety of quartz) that are banded or lined in a variety of patterns of colored layers. Colors range from white to dull yellow, red, brown, orange, blue, black and gray. “Agate” comes from the Greek word, achates, which is the name of the river in Sicily where agate was mined in abundance as early as 3000 BC.

Agates were highly prized among ancient civilizations. Large amounts of agate have been found in archaeological digs of Sumer, dating back to 3500 BC. Theophrastus (372-287 BC) notes that agate is a “marvelously beautiful stone” and was usually sold at high prices.
Amber is fossilized resin. It ranges in color from golden yellow to orange-brown. Ancient Greeks called amber "electrum." The Elder Pliny (23-79 AD) described amber's magnetic attraction, how that when rubbed it would become electrically charged and attract such things as straw, hair, dry leaves and feathers. This is where we get the word electricity. Amber is one of the oldest gemstones, having been found in archaeological digs of tombs dating to the Stone Age. The most valued amber (even today) is that which contains an inclusion of an insect.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz that is best know for it's rich, violet-purple hue. The color can vary in intensity from a pale, almost pinkish (mauve) color to a dark purplish violet. It is thought that the color of the stone comes from small amounts of iron in the quartz. The Greek name for the stone, amethustos (from which we get “amethyst”), literally means “not drunken” and it was believed that the gem guarded one against intoxication. Beautifully carved and engraved amethyst goblets, vases, charms and miniatures have been found in excavations.
Aquamarine is a light blue or bluish-green variety of beryl. Beryl is a silicate of beryllium and aluminum, occurs in hexagonal, prismatic crystals and is very hard as a mineral. Aquamarine was the most available variety of beryl during Biblical times, while the emerald (also a beryl) was more rare.
Carnelian is a translucent, hard, fine-grained variety of orangish red quartz that has often been used for ring stones and wax seals.

Carnelian has been frequently discovered in excavations of the ancient tombs of royalty. A string of expertly carved carnelian beads was found in Egypt dating back to 3100 BC.
Chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline (having crystals so small they cannot even be seen with a microscope) variety of quartz. It has a waxy luster and can be semi-transparent to translucent. There are many varieties of chalcedony, but most of them are known under different names and are distinguished by their color.

In Biblical times, chalcedony was used extensively in the carving of seals, signet rings, beads, bowls, goblets, glasses, and other household objects.