In one biblical episode, the Lord ordered Moses, the great Jewish lawgiver, to arrange 12 precious stones in four rows on the gown of his brother, the chief priest Aaron. The names of 12 family branches of Israel were to be encrusted on each stone in the following order: Reuben - on the sardion, Simon - on the topaz, Levi - on the emerald, Judah - on the ruby, Dan - on the sapphire, Naphtali - on the jasper, Gad - on the amber, Asher - on the agate, Issachar - on the amethyst, Zebulun - on the garnet, Joseph - on the beryl and Benjamin - on the onyx.
When Aaron performed the service in church, all Jacob's twelve branches would appear symbolically before God through these precious stones, thus establishing a mystical contact between the Lord and His selected nation.
The IV century Byzantine author, St. Epiphanies of Cyprus deals with this matter in his work “The Gems”. He examines these biblical precious stones not only in terms of their liturgical and mystical significance, but also from the mineralogical and curative perspectives. It appears that already in the early medieval ages, certain scientific observations already existed on the bioenergetics of precious stones. This has become particularly relevant in contemporary biomedicine, as it has been proven that precious stones possess their own curative energy: they either reflect or absorb negative charges, thus protecting their owner from evil forces or certain deceases. This is reflected in their changing color.
It should be noted also that the most comprehensive version of “The Gems" by St. Epiphanies of Cyprus has been preserved in the Georgian language and is included in one of the most important manuscripts of the Georgian culture - “The Shatberdi Collection" (X century). Furthermore, each of the 12 precious stones of the Old Testament is associated with one of the 12 Apostles of Christ and zodiac signs.
The precious stone amethyst correlates with Issachar - the ninth son of the biblical patriarch Jacob. This gem completes the third row of precious stones adorning the gown of the chief priest Aaron. The following are the mineralogical properties of this stone: the amethyst is a violet or lilac variety of quartz. A real tint of amethyst intersects under sunlight. The so-called “oriental amethyst” is a violet corundum and even a violet spinel. According to traditional definition, the name of this stone means “preventing intoxication” or “intoxication-proof ancient times, opinion prevailed that a person carrying this stone did not get drunk and did not possess evil intentions. That was the reason that wine vessels were often decorated with amethysts. It was believed that the amethyst could make wrinkles disappear. This gem was not worn very frequently, however, because people believed that if the amethyst was worn every day, this would reduce its mystical powers.
This stone was often used to decorate Christian ecclesiastical items and the Catholic ecclesiastics used to wear rings bearing amethysts.
According to widespread opinion, at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, people of high spirituality deserved to bear amethysts.
The amethyst is the main gem of Pisces (February 19 - March 20) and Simon is the apostle of this Zodiac. Like other precious stones, it safeguards its owner from the evil eye, cures alcoholism, epilepsy, rheumatism, infertility and positively impacts on the nervous system.
The emerald (smaragd) and a deep blue-greenish stone, the aquamarine, belong to the beryl family - that of the precious stone corresponding to Jacob's eleventh son Joseph. The beryl is a light green colored stone, although one also encounters beryl of a yellow color, which was discovered in the southern part of Africa and the word “heliodor” (the gift of the sun) is used to denote it.
Writing about the beryl family of stones, Pliny the Elder says that the gems belonging to this family do not overburden the eyesight. Even when one's eyes are overtired by looking at other objects, concentrating on this stone helps them to relax.
It was believed in the east that the stones of the beryl family blinded snakes.
The beryl was used in medieval medicine: beryl powder was utilized in the preparation of an ointment, which was then applied to the eye to treat eye diseases, leprosy and old injuries. Travelers used to wear yellow or greenish beryls.
From the mystical properties of this gem, its linkage with the process of thinking is singled out. It was considered an aid to scholars and philosophers.
According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, the beryl is a gem, which usually adorns the royal crowns and garments of grandees and the women who shared bread with Jesus. We read in the “Life of St. Nino” (IVc) that when St. Nino subverted the pagan Armazi idol by her prayers, it was this very stone that fell out of her eye. European legend has it that when Lucifer fell down, he dropped a smaragd-beryl gem, from which the angels made the Holy Grail. Therefore, the beryl- smaragd stone points to the pre-Christian understanding of truth.
According to the Bible, the beryl is the main stone of the zodiac sign Scorpio (October 23 - November 21) and, from Christ's twelve disciples, Paul is the apostle of the Scorpio.
The beryl is known to strengthen teeth if put into the mouth along with silver; it also regulates the nervous system and pulse and enhances the memory.
According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, the garnet belongs to the family of chrysolite and carsedone. In ancient Georgian, garnet is the same as coral. This is testified by Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani's Lexicon (XVIIIc). The colors of this stone are red and purple as well as similar to that of the pomegranate flower.
The tenth gem adorning Aaron’s gown and the garnet of St. Epiphanies of Cyprus is the chrysolite, which matches Jacob's tenth son Zebulun. It was believed in the Middle Ages that the chrysolite conjured out demons, endowed its owner with calmness, attracted the sympathy of people surrounding him and provided success in his deeds; it was also thought to strengthen the spiritual forces of man and grant him the skill of foretelling. The chrysolite dissolved in water is deemed a remedy against stomachache.
According to contemporary mineralogy, the chrysolite is a precious stone of a golden-green and olive color. Jewelers often refer to chrysolite as “the evening emerald”.
The chrysolite is the main gem of Libra (September 23 - October 22) and Peter is the apostle of this Zodiac. The chrysolite protects its owner from the evil eye, cures a stutter, the gastrointestinal tract, eye maladies, strengthens the nervous and cardiovascular systems, cleanses the body and sharpens eyesight.
Onyx (Anychinus Lapis)
The onyx is the last precious stone among the gems decorating Aaron’s gown. It is a red colored stone, which was used as decoration by grandees, whereas kings and the wealthy made goblets from it. Onyxes of honey color shades also exist. According to the explanation of St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, this stone was termed “prtskhili", because the fingernail of a man resembles marble, while blood renders it reddish.
In the New Testament, and more specifically in the “Apocalypse”, the gem named “sardonyx” matches the one referred to as the “onyx” in the Old Testament. According to A. Fersman’s clarification, "sardonyx" is a member of a multicolored chalcedony, i.e. the agate family. As for the sardonyx - the apocalyptic match of the onyx - it is a chestnut- brown colored striped stone. It is the brownish-red striped onyx, which is called sardonyx or “the onyx of Sardinia” that is the stone originating from Sardinia.
This stone had Benjamin's name written on it. Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob. Even though he was the youngest among Jacob's sons, he had ruled over Israel much earlier than any of his relatives, because Saul - the first King of Israel - was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin whose kinsmen became the judges. It is worthwhile noting that the apostle Paul, earlier known as Savel, was from Benjamin’s family branch and that part of the Jews, who came and settled in Georgia twenty-six centuries ago, were the descendants of Benjamin's tribe (Moktsevai Kartlisai, IV c).
The onyx-sardonyx conjures away evil spirits, protects a man from treachery and deceit, endows him with courage and stops bleeding. It is generally believed that all varieties of onyx possess pain-relieving properties and can stop inflammatory processes. It sharpens the ear of those who are tone-deaf. In ancient times, sardonyx was associated with the magic of sounds. In this respect it is noteworthy that images of musical instruments, particularly those of the lyre, are often encountered on antique sardonyx cameos.
According to the Bible, sardonyx is the main stone of Leo (July 23 - August 22) and Jacob Zebedee is the apostle of this Zodiac.
Onyx and sardonyx restore the bone tissue of fractures, help cure neurosis, tumors and diminished hearing, enhance wound healing, regulate sexual harmony and cure the nervous and cardiovascular system.
This precious stone had the name of Jacob's fourth son, Judah, encrusted on it. According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, the color of jacinth can be compared to the brilliance of burning fire and its glow is like that of the ember. The same author describes the mystical features of jacinth: if it is rubbed on one's skin or if someone drinks the dust produced by grinding it, a true word shall be born in this person and his judgment will become honest and just.
According to Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, jacinth is the same as iagund. It correlates also with carbuncle. As it appears all red gemstones rubies, spinels or others were called carbuncles, but most probably it was garnet that adored the gown of the chief priest Aaron, since garnet is a gem which can be engraved easily. The word "carbuncle" originates from Latin carbunculus, meaning a sparkly, a fiery particle. Pliny the Elder explains: “This precious stone has been given its name because it resembles fire, though fire cannot do it any harm. That is why some people have termed it “unburnable".'
Compared with his older brothers (Reuben, Simon and Levi), Jacob's fourth son Judah was endowed with a much greater divine gift: Judah's branch gave birth to David the Psalmist and Jesus who was born to the Virgin Mary, the daughter of David's tribe. In Georgian hymnography jacinth is regarded as gem decorating the Virgin.
Hyacintus is a Greek word. According to H. Smith, the oriental hyacintus is reddish- brownish or pink corundum. There is a belief associated with jacinth which says that the gem protects from hallucinations, perfidy and evil forces. Of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, Thaddaeus corresponds to jacinth (ruby) and he is considered the apostle of the Aquarius (January 20 - February 18), the sign of the zodiac protecting nuns and men of arts.
Jacinth protects its owner from the evil eye; it has a beneficial effect on gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system, alleviates mental disorders, depression and epilepsy, relieves heartache, it is good for the cardiovascular system, eases pain in the joints, and helps to cure skin diseases and all types of chronic ailment.
St. Epiphanies of Cyprus considers sapphire to be a royal gem. In the Bible this precious stone is encountered in the following context: As Moses, Aaron, Nadab and seventy of the elders of Israel approached the Lord's Mount, “They saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness” (Exodus 24.10). According to historical annals, the Egyptian high priest was wearing a sapphire on his breast with the image of the Goddess of Truth depicted on it. During the pagan mysteries, the high priest was clothed in a sky blue robe, decorated with stars and girded by a yellow belt. Aaron dressed in the same manner, which signified the possession of eternal truth. The sky-blue color is also the symbol of the soul, which strives for eternity.
According to eastern tradition, sapphire is included in the corundum family and is one of the varieties of this stone: the corundum proper, the blue corundum or sapphire, the yellow corundum or topaz and the red corundum or ruby. Some include leicosapphire or the white corundum - an oriental amethyst - to this family as well. The green-coloured corundum - an oriental emerald - is also a fairly rare stone.
Among the sapphires of different colours, the so-called “royal sapphire” of a deep blue colour is considered the "real” sapphire. This gem endows its owner with loyalty, nobility and contemplation of spiritual matters. It is for this reason that the sapphire is sometimes called “the gem of nuns”. This precious stone cools down passions and preserves chastity. According to St.
Epiphanies of Cyprus, if sapphire powder is mixed with milk and then applied to a wound, an ulcer or a pimple, the malady is cured.
The name of Jacob's fifth son, Dan, was inscribed on the sapphire. “Dan" means “a judge”. The Bible gives an account of the strength of his descendants and their martial spirit. Samson, one of the most renowned persons from Dan's branch, was indeed distinguished by his intelligence, craft and strength. According to Christian exegesis, Antichrist should will be born of Dan's descendants. The words of Patriarch Jacob are an indication of this: “Dan shall be a serpent on the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49.17).
In the Book of Revelation we find the name Manasses (Jacob's eleventh son) instead of Dan among the servants sealed by the ring of God in their foreheads (Apocalypses 7.6).
The most other precious stones, sapphire protects its owner from the evil eye. It also retards ageing, helps cure bronchial asthma, the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, rheumatism, endocrinal and infectious diseases, diabetes and other ailments. Sapphire is the main gem of Taurus (April 21- May 21) and Matthew is the apostle who corresponds to it.
Jasper, the sixth precious stone on Aaron's gown, corresponds to Jacob's sixth son Naphtalim and his tribe. According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, green, dotted reddish and striped green are the colors of jasper. The latter is considered to be of particular value.
In Chinese literature jasper is often associated with female beauty. Jasper stairs have become the symbol of a palace and royal life. A thin translucent (i.e. thereby expressive of its inherent meaning) disc of jasper with an opening in the middle was considered an emblem of nobility and even imperial dignity in ancient China. This scepter, made of two hemispheres exactly fitting each other, used to symbolize the sky, its infinity and power.
It is believed that the mystical properties of jasper endow a person with wisdom, foresight and perseverance in times of hardship. These are the features of the cold-colored jasper. The red-coloured stone helps to stop bleeding.
In the Apocalypse, heavenly Jerusalem is garnished with jasper. According to the Christian exegesis, the color of jasper in this context is that of burning coals. This color defies words and is all-inclusive like the sun-light, embodying in itself all the colors of the rainbow in their inseparable entirety.
Contemporary biomedical studies demonstrate that jasper guards its owner from the evil eye, helps strengthen the nervous system and cure various female diseases, epilepsy, stuttering, infertility, infectious illnesses, cardiovascular and other health problems. Jasper is the gem of Aries (March 21 - April 20) and Philip is considered the apostle of this zodiac sign.
Lingurius is the precious stone that corresponds to Jacob’s seventh son. Gad. According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, this stone is found in Egypt, in Tebeh. The gem has expressly visible green veins and has honey or garnet coloured shading. The same author notes that wild cows, the so-called Ligviroses, were found in the country of Egypt. The tips of the tails of these animals gave off a bright green light and it was due to the semblance with this color that the gem was given its name. It was believed that the mystical properties of the stone endowed expectant mothers with patience during delivery and helped relieve the pains of childbirth.
Lingurius is considered a lost stone. To be more precise, it is still not fully clear specifically which precious stone was meant by the name “Lingurius". St. Epiphanies of Cyprus believed this gem belonged to the jacinth family. In contemporary mineralogy, it is described as a yellow-coloured precious stone of particular firmness, most probably, a zircon. By other explanations, based on ancient Hebrew texts, lingurius is a yellow-reddish variety of amber.
In Christian exegesis, according to the description contained in the Apocalypse of the steps of the heavenly Jerusalem, chrysoprasus seems to be the stone that corresponds to lingurius. Chrysoprasus is translated as “of golden-green" color and closely resembles the description of lingurius provided by St. Epiphanies. This does not imply, however, that lingurius and chrysoprasus are identical gems. It may be that on the basis of the semblance of their mystical and curative properties, lingurius was simply substituted with chrysoprasus.
Chrysoprasus protects from the evil eye, envy and slander. It also endows man with resilience and fortitude. It should be worn as a bracelet. At the same time this gem is good for the nervous system, diseases of the eye, improves sight, stops bleeding, cures heartaches, gynecological diseases and, like lingurius, when fastened to a thigh eases delivery.
Of the twelve apostles chrysoprasus corresponds to Jacob the brother of the Lord, Jacob is the apostle of Capricorn (December 22 - January 19) and, therefore, chrysoprasus is the gem of the zodiac sign of Capricorn.
This noble stone is associated with Jacob's eighth son, Asher. Ancient authors refer to agate as a multi-coloured gem. In particular, St. Epiphanies of Cyprus describes it as an ivory- colored stone or a precious stone having the color of a lion. According to Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani 9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulkhan-Saba_Orbeliani) the color of agate is blue, and loane Bagrationi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Ioane_of_Georgia/ described it is a semi-transparent gem with veins; it is also referred to as a stone of pink color or the color of moss.
In St. Epiphanies' “Gems” it is noted that if the dust of an agate is mixed in water and then applied to the wounds and bites of wild animals, venomous snakes or stings of scorpions, the person will be cured.
The description of heavenly Jerusalem in the New Testament does not contain references to agate. It seems that it was substituted with chalcedony, as in contemporary mineralogy agate is considered a decorative stone and one of the major varieties of chalcedony. Lines of different thickness and colour may characterize a stripe-like structure typical of agate.
Of Christ's twelve disciples chalcedony correlates with Thomas, the apostle of Twins (May 22 - June 21). This precious stone protects its owner from the evil eye. It also favorably affects the nervous system, if fastened to the chest helps lactation, stops bleeding, cures eye diseases and depression enhances sight, eases delivery, helps achieve sexual harmony and treat infertility. As for the agate, it has similar properties and in addition improves memory, regulates the pulse, cures impotency and different types of chronic diseases, including rheumatism and others.
According to St. Epiphanies, sardion (or Cthrag Sardius) - the precious stone correlated with Jacob's first son, Reuben - is found in Babylon and Mesopotamia. Its color is purple and it has been named after the blood-colored “sardion-fish". This gem is distinguished by its natural brilliance. It is used to cure ulcers, pimples and to heal injuries inflicted by a sword or an arrow. First the gem is rinsed in water and then passed over the injury. According to Epiphanies, the sardonyx and sardakad stones belong to the sardion family, of which the first is considered by the author to be green in color and the second white. Sardonyx cures stomachache and sardakad makes a person calm.
In the East, people have termed sardion the petrified drops of blood. Traditionally, it is considered that sardion endows people with matrimonial love, health and courage, helps them to remain composed during an argument and stops them when they start to use their vital energy rashly. Sardion protects a man from the perfidy of an enemy and from perishing in an earthquake. Apart from stopping bleeding, it also cures headaches and spiritual injuries. From the mystic properties of sardion, an awakening of the quest for greatness is particularly noted. Sardion drives a noble person towards heroism and victories and brings happiness and love to ordinary people, replenishing their strength. This gem protects its master from evil spells and mean souls. Sometimes, however, it demonstrates the opposite qualities: it strengthens the hostile cruelty of its owner and can even become transformed into an evil demon by merging with him.
From Christ's 12 disciples, sardion corresponds to Apostle John, who is the apostle of Virgo (August 23 - September 22). Correspondingly, sardion is the precious stone of this sign of the zodiac. Various biomedical observations demonstrate that sardion also cures many other deceases, such as those of the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, cancer, nightmares and impotence. It can help strengthen teeth (if put into the mouth together with silver), make child delivery easier, cure tonsils, headaches, rheumatism, thyroid glands, sterility, feminine diseases, diabetes, bronchitis, injuries, gout, hypertension and many more.
Topaz is the precious stone that corresponds to Simon, Jacob's second son. According to St. Epiphanies of Cyprus, the color of topaz, like that of sardion, is purple. When it is polished, however, it loses its original color and becomes milk- colored. Topaz particles are used to fill many vessels and it is applied for curative purposes as often as necessary. Interestingly, when polished, topaz loses neither weight nor shape. Such is Epiphanies' observation of this precious gem.
According to another definition, in ancient times when very little was known about the properties of minerals, all transparent yellow stones were termed topaz. Pliny the Elder refers to topaz as a green-colored noble stone.
Topaz is not considered a rare gem. Pink, yellow, blue and cherry-red are variations of its color. Blue-white topaz is anomalous. The thick yellow-colored topaz stones have been termed “royal" and varieties with lesser brightness - “Oriental”. It was believed in the past that this precious stone could free a person from dangerous and uncontrollable passions and relieve fits of asthma.
According to contemporary biomedical studies, energy produced by topaz protects a person from the evil eye, helps to treat various chronic deceases (the gem is soaked in water and honey solution), regulates the pulse, aids mental illnesses, strokes, stutters, rheumatism, anemia, gastrointestinal tract, insomnia and other maladies.
From Christ's 12 apostles topaz matches Apostle Andrew who is the apostle of Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21). According to Georgian apostolic chronicles, St. Andrew preached Christianity in western Georgia.
This noble stone corresponds to Jacob's third son, Levi. According to the Bible, Levi’s descendants were granted the honor of priesthood. Moses and Aaron, as well as John the Baptist, were Levis.
The emerald, is green in color. All inner secrets and future events are reflected in it like in a mirror. According to a legend, angels cut out the Holy Grail used by Christ at the Last Supper from the emerald, which dropped from Lucifer's forehead when he fell.
The emerald was considered the sailors' talisman. It was believed that along with multiple other merits, the emerald could endow its owner with the skill of foretelling. The emerald is the guardian of love. It also possesses various curative and medical properties: it cures eye deceases, epilepsy and leprosy and has antidotal qualities. According to Pliny the Elder, no matter how tired the human eye may be, it relaxes when looking at the emerald. Tradition has it that Emperor Nero used to watch gladiator fights through an emerald lens. According to the Indian mystical belief, the emerald can contact the world of spirits, allowing a person to read his past and future from the secret green depths of its facets. According to Islamic cosmology, the emerald mountainous ridge of Quaff embraces the terrestrial world - the earth. These mountains, glowing with an unearthly light, are inhabited by angels and genies. Simourg, the mystical bird, and symbol of God, also lives there. The emerald mountains are the pillars of the seven skies.
According to another legend, the crusaders brought to Europe the sacred bowl made of a single emerald belonging to King Solomon and, was kept in ancient Genoa from the XII century. Of the 12 apostles, the emerald matches Christ's disciple Bartholomew. He is considered the apostle of the zodiac sign Cancer (June 22 - July 22). According to the tradition of the Georgian church, St. Bartholomew is considered to have preached Christianity in Georgia.
The emerald protects its owner from the evil eye, strengthens the nervous and cardiovascular systems, improves memory, cures stutters, chronic pain and paroxysm in the liver and gall bladder. It can improve skin color, cure sterility, female diseases, infectious illnesses, sepsis, diabetes, kidney diseases and more.