Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stones of the Bible III

Onyx is chalcedony that has even, banded layers in various colours. The Greek word for onyx is “the nail of a finger” which implies the banding of color for which the stone is known. Onyx has been used through the ages as the stone for engraving cameos. Onyx was also used extensively for carving seal rings. Designs were cut into the stone as intaglios and when pressed into the seal material (clay or wax) the impression leaves a raised design.
Pearls hold the distinction of being the only gem formed within a living organism. In the Roman empire at the time of Christ pearls became very popular. Julius Caesar is said to have spent vast sums on pearls. Biblical accounts speak of a "pearl of great price".

For centuries the pearl was known as “Margarite” from the Greek word for pearl, margarites. Margarites is the name of the oyster that produces the pearl found in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, margaritafera vulgaris.
Peridot is the modern name for chrysolite which is a transparent gem from the mineral olivine. It’s color, which ranges from yellow-green to a deep bottle green comes from the presence of iron. Peridot (or chrysolite) has been known since biblical times with the earliest source being St. John’s Island in the Red Sea off the Egyptian Coast. The term topaz of biblical times was actually the peridot (or chrysolite) of today. Conversely the term chrysolite in the Greek is actually the Topaz of today. See Topaz
Rubies are the red gem variety of the mineral corundum. Rubies get their red color from traces of chromium. All other colors of corundum are called sapphire. Rubies are the among the hardest of the gemstones with only the diamond being harder. Called “king of the gems” in some ancient cultures, rubies were considered the rarest and most precious gemstone in the world.

Rubies did not come into use until the Roman Empire around 300 BC.
The sapphire, that we know today is the blue, translucent variety of corundum. The sapphire gets it’s color from small amounts of iron and titanium and ranges from a pale, ice blue to deep cobalt blue.

Kashmir, India was one of the earliest sources of fine sapphires. These mines produced a cornflower blue sapphire to which all other sapphires are compared. Our modern term sapphire comes from the Greek sapphiros which is from the Hebrew sapir (or capir). The term sapphire appears many times in the bible, however, the stone we associate with sapphire today was not known until the Roman Empire (300 BC). See Lapis lazuli and Jacinth.
Sardonyx is a variety of chalcedony (fine-grained quartz) that has alternating bands of reddish-brown and white. Early Roman writers spoke of sardonyx as a “gem of great value.” Sardonyx made beautiful cameos, and was often extravagantly carved. The Romans developed this craft of engraving into a fine art. Great quantities of quality sardonyx came from India during this time.
The topaz of today is a mineral that is composed of aluminum, silicon, oxygen, and fluorine. It occurs in many colors, including deep golden-orange, yellow, brownish-yellow, pink, red, and various shades of blue. It may also be colorless. Topaz comes from the Greek word topazion, named for the island, Topazios, located in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. The gemstone which was mined on this island was actually the peridot (chrysolite) of today. The term topaz in the bible actually refers to peridot (chrysolite). See Peridot (Chrysolite)
Turquoise is hydrous compound of phosphorus, aluminum and copper. It is opaque, blue to blue-green in color with a dull, waxy luster. Turquoise specimens have been found in excavations of early civilizations such as Sumer (3500 BC). Turquoise was used by the Egyptians of the First Dynasty (3000 BC) who mined it at Serabit on the Sinai Peninsula. Turquoise was one of the first gemstones to be mined and some of the oldest known mines come from this region.