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Has a Legendary Gem from a Sacred Jewish Breastplate Been Rediscovered?

Has a Legendary Gem from a Sacred Jewish Breastplate Been Rediscovered?

After being lost from the pages of history for about a thousand years, a legendary gemstone may find its way back home. An anonymous owner of what may be a very important religious artifact is ready to relinquish a cherished family heirloom and return it to its homeland. The artifact is said to have had an exciting history and, if it is indeed real, it has a strong significance in the Jewish faith as well.

Both Breaking Israel News and the Daily Mail claim that the gem in question may have its origins in a sacred breastplate that was worn by the High Priest of Jerusalem. Before examining more of the gem’s history, it is interesting to look closer at the legend behind this breastplate.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia , the "ḥoshen" (the name for the breastplate) was “adorned with precious stones, worn by the high priest on his breast when he presented in the Holy Place the names of the children of Israel.” The Temple Institute describes the High Priest’s breastplate by saying:

“This garment is called choshen mishpat in Hebrew, which means the "breastplate of judgment" or "decision." Square-shaped and worn over the heart, it was called so because of the unique role which it played in helping to render fateful decisions. According to the Biblical instructions and rabbinical traditions, the breastplate is a patterned brocade like the ephod. The threads of its fabric are gold, sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and twisted linen. The garment itself is set with four rows of small square stones, in settings of knitted or braided gold. Each row contained three stones-totaling twelve stones, one stone representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The name of the corresponding tribe was engraved on each stone.”

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Front of the breastplate on the front of the central Sephardic synagogue in Ramat Gan. (Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel/ CC BY 2.5 )

The breastplate was believed to have enabled the High Priest to have communicated directly with God. When an important question was asked, the priest could deliver “God’s word” and answer the enquiry with the aid of the breastplate and two sacred stones, named the Urim and the Thummim. While wearing the jeweled breastplate and holding the two stones, the High Priest stood before a lampstand near the altar. When he asked the question, the candle would reflect light from the Urim and the Thummin onto the stones of the Breastplate. The website Pheonix Masonry explains how the answer arrived:

“this flash of light provided up to 24 combinations (2 x 12). Since there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the flashes of light could produce strings of letters. It was said that God breathed through the wind, which in turn causes the veil to move, permitting a breeze to flicker the flames in the Lampstand to momentarily alter the angle of direction of the light onto the Urim and Thummin, and thence to the Breastplate. Thus God was able to communicate directly, but not audibly, to the high priest and answer the enquiry.”

Jewish high priest wearing a hoshen, and Levites in ancient Judah.

The stone that has recently made the headlines is said to be one of the two sardonyx gems which were set in gold on the breastplate’s shoulders. With the abovementioned legend in mind, it is easy to see why this precious stone has created a stir. But how did it end up in the hands of an elderly woman in South Africa?

The owner’s family tradition explains that the sardonyx was given to her ancestor, named Croiz Arneet deTarn Auret, from the High Priest around 1189 in gratitude for helping free Jerusalem. The Daily Mail adds to the story that “it was given to a Knight Templar and handed down through that family from one generation to the next.”

The sardonyx stone in the papyrus casket it was carried in. (Owner/ Daily Mail )

After generations of keeping the stone in the family’s possession, in 2000 they asked to have it appraised. Breaking Israel News says that Dr. James Strange, a professor in religious studies and archaeology analyzed the stone for the family. Dr. Strange suggested to Breaking Israel News that he was not very impressed with the stone until he saw two letters in ancient Hebrew. He said : "There is no modern or ancient technology known to me by which an artisan could produce the inscription, as it is not cut into the surface of the stone." Dr. Strange dated the stone to about the 5th century BC and appraised the stone's value at $175-$225 million. He then asked gemologist Ian Campbell to take a look at the odd artifact. Mr. Campbell confirmed that the stone had not been cut open to make the inscription and estimated a worth starting at $200 million.

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Later, another expert - M. Sharon from the University of Witwatersrand, was asked to examine the stone as well. Daily Mail quotes his report on the artifact as saying: "Due to the clarity of the letters and their fine definition it would be incredible if they are a coincidental natural formation in the stone. The lack of any apparent sign of interference with the surface makes the existence of the letters inside the stone a real enigma." He also is said to have described the inscriptions as ancient Hebrew script and "the equivalent of our 'B' and 'K'." The style of script was dated to 1000 BC, give or take 200-300 years.

It is interesting to note that this is not the first modern mention of the stone. It seems that in 1991 the enigmatic artifact made the news when the owner was (first?) considering selling it.

Now, it appears that the sardonyx stone is on the market once again. Daily Mail reports that the current owner of the gemstone and a South African businessman are specifically looking for investors interested in buying the stone and taking it to Israel.

However, the question of the authenticity of the stone remains uncertain. Although Dr. Strange told Breaking Israel News "I calculated then that if it were a fraud, then one or more very similar others would show up on the international market rather soon, but to my knowledge none has" he also stressed that it should be examined once again. He concluded:

"A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. I think this object needs a new appraisal and as many scientific tests as possible to determine whether it is genuine. If it turns out to be an artifact important to the history of the Jewish people, then that is truly wonderful. If it turns out to be a masterful fraud, then I will be pained that I was duped."

4/13/20 Report - Priestly Stone From Important Religous Artifact(?). Groupthink Making History. Problem Solving.

Here is more of what Ancient Origens says about the stone shown at the top of the post.

After being lost from the pages of history for about a thousand years, a legendary gemstone may find its way back home. An anonymous owner of what may be a very important religious artifact is ready to relinquish a cherished family heirloom and return it to its homeland. The artifact is said to have had an exciting history and, if it is indeed real, it has a strong significance in the Jewish faith as well.

I don't feel like that is very likely. Aaron's breastplate would be from around 1300 BCE, and Solomon's temple was destroyed around 586 BCE, and Herod's temple was destroyed in 70 CE, not to mention other difficulties.

If you are a history buff, you might enjoy reading the analysis of the decision making process that resulted in big events of the 20th century. One thing that played a roll in many of the mistakes, according to a variety of analysts, is groupthink.

According to Briannica.com, groupthink is a mode of thinking in which individual members of small cohesive groups tend to accept a viewpoint or conclusion that represents a perceived group consensus , whether or not the group members believe it to be valid, correct, or optimal. Groupthink reduces the efficiency of collective problem solving within such groups. ( https://www.britannica.com/science/groupthink )

In short, groupthink occurs when groups do not encourage divergent opinions. The phenonomon has been discussed as leading to some big public policy failures, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion. As I recently mentioned, you can hardly read a social science textbook without reading about how groupthink contributed to JFK's decision to invade Cuba.

Below is a bit about that from Yale Alumni Magazine.

Another topic you might find relevant is Milton Rokeach's Open and Closed Mind, a book on dogmatism and authoritarianism.

Years before I got into metal detecting, I published an article in The Journal of Rational Living in which one of the variables was dogmatism. Funny how some things circle around and keep coming back every so many years.

My first conference presentation was before that and was on the conditioning of a psychophysiological response.

I tell you that only because those types of studies are indicative to my approach to metal detecting and help to explain who I am and what I do here. I approach things very much the same way here as I did in the research lab, although not with the same rigor or attention to detail. I believe in being very cautious about conclusions, observation, operational definitions, data and evidence, considering every alternative to the first tempting conclusion, and testing rather than assuming.

Just yesterday when I talked about the heel bone with a hole in it I said, " As any scientific analysis would, this study considered possible causes of the wound other than crucifixion, one of which was the practice of nailing corpses stationary in a coffin, but there was no coffin used in this case."

I cautioned against the danger of reaching conclusions without consideration of alternative explanations. In my experience and opinion, a scientist or anyone hoping to reach a correct conclusion must examine all alternative explanations. Many times I've pointed out that danger as it relates to identifying dug artifacts.

Personally, that is the type of thing that keeps metal detecting interesting for me, and I use the same techniques and discipline, whether I am studying beach dynamics or effective search strategies.

When presenting my conclusion, I'll always give evidence to support it, resources that the reader can consult, often my confidence level or other things like that, and I trust the reader to take whatever of that he might find useful and do what he will with it. I don't expect or encourage you to accept my conclusion without testing it out or reasoning it out for yourself.

It is hot. I just did a very little detecting in a trash hole and was sweating heavy. Not used to that kind of heat yet.

Symbolism of the Breastplate Stones

Note: I wrote this back in 1988 and it probably needs a new revision. But for those who find such topics interesting, here it is for your enjoyment.

Q. What were the types of stones used in Aaron’s breastplate? What were the reasons a particular stone represented a particular tribe?

A. Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Exodus 28, noted that we really have no way to positively identifying the stones that were set in the breastplate and that when Saadia translated these stones as he saw fit, and had no tradition to rely upon. Ibn Ezra’s point is very important, for anything we say about this subject is nothing more than conjecture. The problem is especially compounded when we consider that there is no agreement as to what tribe corresponded to the correct stone. In light of this, let’s wade our way through these murky waters and see how these stones have been identified. Some scholars have attempted to establish a relationship between the 12 stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the 12 months of the year, and the 12 signs in the zodiac however, there is no evidence of this in Scripture. Precious stones are used in Scripture in a figurative sense, to signify value, beauty, durability. Philo of Alexandria felt that each stone correspond exactly to the temperament of each given tribe.

The First Row of Stones:

Odem ‑‑sardius, or, ruby. Ex 39:10. The Hebrew odem, from adam, to be red, ruddy, seems to denote the ruby as adam does in Persian a beautiful gem, of a fine deep red color, with a mixture of purple. Jb 28:18. Pr 3:15. 8:11. 20:15. 31:10. La 4:7. The Targum of Yonatan identifies this stone with the tribe of Rueben some identify this stone with the tribe of Judah. [Note that Judah was known for his passionate nature, as was Rueben]

Pitdah ‑‑ is constantly rendered by the LXX. topadzion, and Vulgate, topazius, with which agrees Josephus. The topaz is a precious stone, of a pale, dead green, with a mixture of yellow, sometimes of a fine yellow and hence called chrysolyte by the moderns, from its gold color. Job 28:19. According to Saadia Gaon, Kimchi, and Chizkuni this stone is most likely the emerald. According to the Septuagint, pitdah is identified with the sardian ‑‑ a deep orange‑red chalcedony considered by some to be a variety of carnelian. The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabba 2:7 identify the Pitda with Simon, while some say it was the stone of Issachar.

Bareket ‑‑ is possibly a carbuncle, from the Hebrew word Bareketh, from barak, (lightning) to lighten, glitter, a very elegant gem, of a deep red color, with a mixture of scarlet. It has been suggested that possibly the breastplate stone was not green but of bluish‑ red color, in which case it may have been an almandine (garnet). Is 54:11, 12.. Saadia notes that this stone may well have been the yellow topaz, possibly a citrine. The Midrash identifies this stone with Gad, while others identify Bareket with Benjamin

The Second Row of Stones

Nofech ‑‑ Ex 28:18. The Targum, KJV, and Bahya identify this as the emerald, others would argue that the emerald was unknown in Mosaic times. This last opinion is debatable for emeralds were recently rediscovered in Upper Egypt, at Mt. Zabarah. and in Cyprus, and Ethiopia.

Another alternative might be turquoise which was certainly mined in Egypt during Mosaic times. Chizkuni identifies this stone with the carbuncle, whereas the Septuagint renders nofech as coal. Some identify this stone with the tribe of Judah while others identify it with the tribe of Rueben.

Sapir ‑‑ Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390‑ 405 C.E..) translates this stone as sapphirus Pliny describes sapphirus as “refulgent with spots like gold. It is also of an azure color, though sometimes, but rarely, it is purple the best kind being that which comes from Media. In no case, however, is this stone transparent.” However, there is ample reason to believe that the sapphire stone of today which is really the corundum, a stone that was not known in ancient times. Pliny 37:39 and Theophrastos, a Greek scholar were of the view that the sapphire of ancient times was really the lapis lazuli. The Midrash identifies this stone with the tribe of Issachar, while other identify this stone with the tribe of Dan.

Yahalom ‑‑ This stone has been identified as a rock crystal clear and colorless gem, a pearl, or a bluish glass (considered valuable in very early times), or blue chalcedony, or perhaps even beryl. Ibn Ezra in his commentary notes that Yahalom is most likely a diamond because it has the ability to break up all other stones. Its root word is according to Ibn Ezra derived from the Hebrew word holem which means “to smite” (Cf. Isa 41:7). Some translations of the Bible translate Yahalom as “diamond” which is incorrect for the diamond was not known before the Middle Ages. Moreover, for the Biblical stone had a name engraved on it and the method of engraving a diamond was not invented till 2,000 or 3,000 years after the breastplate was made nor were diamonds, if known at that time and place in history. The Midrash identifies this stone with the tribe of Zevulun, while others say it was Naphtali’s stone.

The Third Row of Stones:

Leshem‑‑ This stone might be jacinth, zircon amber yellow or orange The Septuagint renders it as liguron . Other scholars identify it with aventurine, a quartz containing very fine crystals of hematite, limonite or mica, which sparkle when the light catches them. It has also been identified as turquoise which is used in jewelry. This stone may have been a tourmaline, or more definitely the red variety known as rubellite. Rubellite is a hard stone, and used as a gem, and is sometimes sold for red sapphire. The Midrash associates this stone with the tribe of Dan because the city of Leshem was located in his tribe [Cf. Joshua 19:47].

She’voh‑‑‑ Variegated black and white agate The Septuagint identifies this stone as achatis. This identification with agate is accepted by all scholars. White‑gray agates were found in Egypt. This is a stone that assumes such a variety of hues and appearances it may derive its name from the root shuv (heb 7725), “to turn, to change” and are capable of changing its appearance without end. Some identify Midrashic sources identify this stone with the tribe of Naphtali, while others suggest it was the stone of Asher or Menashe.

Achlamah ‑‑‑ which the Septuagint renders as ‘amethustos the Greek word for without being drunk’ the Greeks believed that this stone was supposed to prevent inebriation. This a gem generally is purple or violet in color. Pliny says that it was crimson, that there were four shades of that color and that it was translucent. Ibn Ezra writes that the amethyst was sometimes identified as the dream stone, for it was could induce dreams in anyone who wears it. [note that the word achlamah is related to the Hebrew word for dream “cholem.” The Targum identifies this stone with the tribe of Gad or Issachar. If this is indeed the dream stone, then it seem logical to identify this stone with Joseph.

The Fourth Row of Stones

Tarshish ‑‑beryl, a precious stone of a sea‑ green color. Emerald and aquamarine are two types of beryl. It may also be citrine quartz or green jasper The Septuagint calls this chrisolythos or berullion . In the Hellenistic period this name was applied to the topaz, a stone not known in the earlier periods. Now believed to have been identical with mother‑of‑ pearl. Jerome’s Vulgate translates it as the hyacinthus. Beryl is a transparent gem of a bluish‑green colour, found in the East Indies [Saadia, Kimchi and the KJV]. Only the green beryl was known and used in Egypt in Moses’ time, the aquamarine and the yellow and white beryls not being known. The name Tarshish is also the ancient Biblical name for Spain, and if this applies here, then we may assume that it is the yellow rock crystal or citrine quartz. known as “chrysolith” according to Pliny (Natural History, xxxvii. 43). This stone is identified with the tribe of Zebulon who dwelled by the sea (Bahya).

Shoham ‑‑ Onyx sardonyx variegated red and white Onyx is a member of the agate family and is characterized by its non‑transparency and its parallel layers of alternating colors, as red and white, brown and white, black and white. The Vulgate translates it as the sardonyx, a red and white variegated gem. New English Bible renders shoham as “(red) carnelian.” which is frequently found in the desert. In the Book of Job, Job regarded God’s wisdom as a greater possession than even costly onyx (Job 28:16). The Targum identifies this stone with the tribe of Asher.

Yashfeh ‑‑ Jasper jasper green the jasper stone was originally carved by the Babylonians and was usually green and sometimes even transparent. The Greek and Latin jaspis, and has been found in excavations in ancient Judea and in the neighboring countries. This stone may possibly be the opal or jade or green quartz. The Midrash identifies this stone with the tribe of Naphtali or Benjamin.

According to Philo, Josephus, Maimonides, Rashi, the four rows was arranged according to the order of their birth, others suggest that the rows corresponded to they encamped in the wilderness (T.B. Yoma 73b, Saadia, and the Abravanel). According to the Minchat Chinuch, the rows were arranged vertically by the order of birth (cf. Kaplan’s Living Torah for more details). The purpose of the choshen (breastplate) was to remind the High Priest that he had to represent the Jewish people wherever he would go, and that he was their servant at all times.

I would like to make a few concluding comments about the purpose of these stones and why they were so important .Stones had a wide range of meanings in the ancient world. They represented indestructibility, constancy, the unyielding, and dominance. Many of the transparent shiny stones symbolically represented the synthesis of earthly matter bound up with the brilliance of spiritual. These gems represented clarity and light, and were used by the High Priest when he meditated on the Urim ve Tumim.

At the beginning of this article, I pointed out that the twelve stones corresponded to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. There is also a stone for every month, and these are often featured in brooches inscribed with zodiacal signs portraying a person’s horoscope. According to Eliade, stones were adored by the ancients because they were believed to be instruments of spiritual action and vitality. These stones were believed by many peoples throughout history as carrying the charisma of the sun, the moon and the seven planets. Yellow and white stones bore the influence of the sun, blue stones were associated with the heavenly realm [Cf. the color of techeylet found in the Tzitzit symbolizing the heavens and the waters], red stones bore the influence of Mars and passion, Venus was associated with green stones such as the emerald, Saturn was characterized by black stones such as onyx and so on. These stones were used also as a weapon warding off the baneful influence of the evil eye.

Precious stones were believed to have certain curative powers. Abraham wore a precious stone, hanging from his neck, any sick person who gazed upon it was instantly healed (Bava Bathra 16b) cf. the pearl-bag worn by animals that contained a pearl for medicinal purposes. (Cf.Sanh. 68a and Rashi ad loc.). They were also believed to promote human passions and affections. According to Josephus mentions that the Essenes used precious stones for healing purposes (Wars 2:136) Beryl gives hope emeralds brought wealth, carbuncle, energy and assurance rubies and red agates were associated with love.

With regard to the tribes and their respective stones, we find in the Midrash

There were distinguishing signs for each prince each had a flag and a different color for every flag, corresponding to the precious stones on the breast of Aaron… Reuben’s stone was odem and the color of his flag was red and embroidered thereon were mandrakes. Simeon’s was pitdah and his flag was of a yellow (or green) color… Levi’s was bareqet and the color of his flag was a third white, a third black, and a third red… Judah’s was nofekh and the color of his flag was like that of the sky… Issachar’s was sappir and the color of his flag was black like stibium… Zebulun’s was yahalom and the color of his flag was white… Dan’s was leshem and the color of his flag was similar to sappir… Gad’s ahlamah and the color of his flag was neither white nor black but a blend of black and white… Asher’s was tarshish and the color of his flag was like the precious stone with which women adorn themselves… Joseph’s was shoham and the color of his flag was jet black… Benjamin’s was yashfeh and the color of his flag was a combination of all the 12 colors.[This Midrash was adapted from the Encyclopedia Judaica]


Dr. James Strange, a professor in religious studies and archaeology at Samford University in Alabama, traveled to South Africa in 2000 to appraise what was described as an interesting gemstone at the request of a friend. What he found left him puzzled.


Experts believe the stone dates back to 1000 BC, as there is ancient Hebrew inscribed at its center.

The script is the equivalent of our 'B' and 'K'.

The letters in the stone appear to be similar to those found on archaeological finds dating from 1300 to 300 BC.

What makes this case so unique is that there are not marks on the stone's surface, which means the stone was not cut open to add the two letters.

Experts suggest the sardonyx had either been set in a large plate or breast plate and he also dated its creation to the 5th century BC.

Now he has told Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz with Breaking Israel News: 'I think this object needs a new appraisal and as many scientific tests as possible to determine whether it is genuine.

'If it turns out to be an artifact important to the history of the Jewish people, then that is truly wonderful.

'If it turns out to be a masterful fraud, then I will be pained that I was duped.'

Speaking of his trip in 2000, he said: 'I was unaware that anyone in the late Middle Ages had the technology to cut a hemisphere in such a medium, so I tried to exhaust all other explanations.

'There is no modern or ancient technology known to me by which an artisan could produce the inscription, as it is not cut into the surface of the stone.'

With no visible markings on the surface, Dr. Strange ruled out the idea that the stone was cut open.

After his examination, Dr. Strange concluded that the sardonyx had either been set in a large plate or breastplate and he also dated its creation to the 5th century BC.

What makes the sardonyx so unique is a tiny inscription (pictured is a drawing of the text) in the heart of the stone, which is believed to be an ancient script that dates back to 1000 BC. M. Experts says the script is the equivalent of our 'B' and 'K'

Pictured is a concept drawing of the breastplate, which was studded with gems and would light up to spell out answers when questions were put to it

Because this stone was one-of-a-kind, he appraised its value between $175 million to $225 million.

Ian Campbell who was the director of the Independent Coloured Stones Laboratory in Johannesburg and a leading South African gemologist, also confirmed that the stone had not been sliced open to add the inscription.

'How does one logically go about putting a value to something like a proven religious artifact that is a 'one of' article?'

He estimated that $200 million was a 'fair starting point'.

Now, the claims from 2000 have been confirmed by Breaking Israel News who spoke with Campbell's apprentice, Jeremy Rothon.

However, Dr. Strange still remembers the stone as if it was still sitting in his hand.

He noted that if it was a fake, another stone that was similar would have surfaced by now, and he is requesting a new appraisal.

The present owner is in contract with a South African businessman who is now searching for investors who are willing to purchase the stone and take it back to Israel – both parties wish to stay anonymous.

When the businessman laid eyes on this small stone, he immediately recognized that the sardonyx was an important piece of Jewish history and is determined to bring it home.


The stones of the choshen mishpat, the High Priest's breastplate, were referred to in the Bible as the urim v'tummim, or Urim and the Thummim, a phrase that has yet to be defined.

Legend says it was given to a Knight Templar 1,000 years ago and handed down through that family from one generation to the next.

With no visible markings on the surface, Dr. James Strange ruled out the idea that the stone (pictured) was initially cut open. After his examination, he said it had either been set in a large plate or breastplate and he also dated its creation to the 5th century BC

‘And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim and they shall be upon Aharon’s heart’. Exodus 28:30

The Jewish text, Talmund, reveals questions would be brought to the breastplate and the stones would light up to spell the questions – each stone had different letters at the center.

This text states the stones were lost in Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians.

In the book of Samuel, you read the urim v’tummim is one of the three forms of divine communication: dreams, prophets and the urim v’tummim.

And when Shaul inquired of Hashem, Hashem answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. I Samuel 28:6

Edited by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Reviewed by Rabbi Ari D. Kahn, Echoes of Eden on the Pentateuch

A very new, very old book has been published recently. Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel has set out to perform the herculean task of translating Philo of Alexandria’s commentary on the Book of Genesis into smooth, readable English, presented in the order of the verses and chapters of the Torah. This volume is the first in a projected series on all five books of the Pentateuch.

At the outset, I should make it clear that my limited knowledge of Philo’s philosophical milieu limits my ability to write a comprehensive review of Torah from Alexandria . I leave it to scholars well-versed in the Hellenistic Roman and Egyptian philosophical traditions to examine Rabbi Samuel’s efforts to compare and contrast Philo’s commentary with the philosophical trends of his age. Instead, I approached the material hoping to discover the Torah insights of an ancient Jewish philosopher, and to consider these insights in their historical and masoretic context.

I was not disappointed. In addition to translating Philo’s writings, Rabbi Samuel explains the texts when necessary, often with the aid of references and notes, thus allowing the modern reader to access and understand Philo’s interpretation of the Torah. Even more importantly, through Torah from Alexandria we are able to reveal the underlying exegetical approach with which Philo explained the Torah to readers of his own generation. The relevance of his approach to our own generation is striking.

In recent years, students of Tanach, especially among the religious Zionist community in Israel, have been engaged in a debate (some might characterize it as a battle) regarding authentic and legitimate interpretation of the sacred biblical text. The debate centers around two related points: First, to what extent is fidelity to classical rabbinic commentary requisite (or even desirable) and second, to what extent is it legitimate to interpret the text in a manner that implies that the heroes of the biblical narrative were less than perfect? This debate has come to be known as interpretation b’govah ha- einayim – looking biblical heroes in the eye, as opposed to gazing up at them as a mere mortal would view a titan.

One maverick in the new school of Israeli interpretation, the late Rav Mordechai Breuer, was fond of saying that he reads the text just as the sages of old did — without the commentary of the sages. In other words, Rav Breuer’s insights were based upon an unfettered reading of the text itself, stripped of the layers of traditional rabbinic exegesis. Opponents of this approach decry the deconstruction of our spiritual forebears, denounce the abandonment of our traditional view of the forefathers and our accepted understanding of their behavior. According to the more traditional approach, looking biblical characters in the eye borders on heresy and undermines the very foundations of Jewish spirituality. According to this approach, deconstructing our spiritual heroes diminishes us all, and leaves us empty and bereft of role models. At the same time, discarding traditional rabbinic explanations of the biblical text casts a shadow on our masorah, subtly calling into question the centrality of teachings attributed all the way back to Moses and passed down to the sages of each subsequent generation.

With the help of Rabbi Samuel, we are now able to look back to the exegetical method used by Philo in Alexandria some two thousand years ago, and what we find may have important ramifications for our current debate. In Torah from Alexandria , we find a biblical commentator whose work is remarkably in sync with rabbinic tradition — which is no small feat given that a good number of the interpretations he offers are found only in much later rabbinic writings. We must therefore assume that Philo, like the authors of those later rabbinic texts, recorded ideas and exegetical traditions that had previously been transmitted orally (or, alternatively, that these rabbinic interpretations originated in Alexandria). The masorah’s centrality and antiquity are clearly reinforced.

Even more fascinating is the impact Philo’s approach should have on the govah ha’einayim debate. Philo proves to be a staunch supporter of the classical approach to biblical characters, immediately and unequivocally defending them and dispelling any possible negative interpretation of their behavior. In situations where such “mainstream” commentaries as Nachmanides or Rabbi S.R. Hirsch find fault in the behavior of the matriarchs or patriarchs, Philo is quick to defend in fact, there are many instances in which he inserts a virtuous spin on seemingly neutral situations .

  • · Abraham could have resolved the problem with Lot by force, but did not wish to humiliate him, and sought a peaceful resolution. (p. 156)
  • · When Abraham seems to complain to God that he has no children, Philo reads it as a virtue: “A servant must be direct and honest with his superior.” (p. 164)
  • · While Lot’s daughters’ behavior is “unlawful,” their intentions were “not without some merit.” (p. 199)
  • · Sarah suggested that Abraham have a child with Hagar her motivations were “selfless and altruistic.” (p. 171)
  • · Sarah’s treatment of Hagar was “disciplinary, and not abusive, in nature.” (p. 174)
  • · Philo turns Abraham’s false claim that Sarah is his sister into a virtue, explaining that a person who speaks only the truth in all situations is “unphilosophical as well as an ignoramus.” (p. 154)
  • · Sarah’s demand that Hagar and Yishmael be banished was not motivated by spite or jealousy. It was a well-earned response to their having spread malicious rumors that Isaac was illegitimate child. (p. 206)
  • · Abraham acquiesces to his wife’s demand this behavior always has “the best and happiest kind of outcome.” (p. 206)
  • · The expulsion of Yishmael is compared to the expulsion of Adam from the Garden of Eden: “Once the mind contracts folly, it becomes almost an incurable disease…their penchant for superficiality and mediocrity.” (p. 207)
  • · “The animus against Abraham stems from an envy and hatred of everything that is good.” (p. 209)
  • · The sacrifice of Isaac (whose name connotes joy) teaches us that “even joy must be subordinated to God.” (p. 210)
  • · Isaac was not misguided or mistaken in his love for Esau. Isaac’s love for Esau was compartmentalized or limited, conditional he was attracted to Esau’s skill as a hunter, because Isaac himself sought to “hunt down his passions and keep them at bay.” (p. 233)
  • · Esau had always been a slave, and was destined to remain enslaved for all time – with or without the blessing Jacob took. By selling the birthright, Esau proved that he was a slave to his “belly’s pleasures.” (p. 233)
  • · When Jacob buys the birthright from Esau, it is an act of virtue intended to save his brother from rampant materialism that would bring about Esau’s downfall. (p. 234)
  • · Isaac wants to bless Esau because he sees that Esau is limited and lacking, while Jacob is perfect and does not need his blessing. (p. 240)
  • · Jacob should be admired for respecting both his parents and carrying out his mother’s instructions to the letter, rather than being vilified for taking Esau’s blessings through subterfuge. (p. 242)
  • · “Malicious people never tire of accusing Scripture of excusing Jacob’s deceit and fraud… subterfuge and maneuvering have their place in life…sometimes a general will make a threat of war, while he is actually working in the interest of peace.” (p. 243) “A good man may do something that appears wrong, but [he] acts with noble intention.” (p. 245 also see p. 248)
  • · Simeon and Levy “acted as a vanguard of justice and fought to protect their family’s purity.” (p. 272)
  • · Joseph treats the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah as equals, hence drawing the ire of his other brothers. (p. 275)
  • · Jacob’s love for Joseph was not arbitrary favoritism. Rather, he loved Joseph because of his skills, his virtue, and his nobility. (p. 275)
  • · Regarding Tamar: “Virtue is subtle –sometimes she veils her face like Tamar.” (p. 284)
  • · Joseph was physically assaulted by Madame Potiphar, but never succumbed to her advances. (p. 287)
  • · Joseph does not seek revenge he wants to see how the brothers will treat Benjamin, another son of Rachel. (p. 301) Joseph sees the entire episode as divine providence (p. 313).
  • · Even in prison, Joseph behaves virtuously toward all the other prisoners. (p. 288)
  • · Joseph does not gain personally from any of the wealth accrued in Egypt rather, he is a dedicated civil servant. (p. 318f)
  • · Joseph completely forgave his brothers and never sought vengeance, not only out of respect for their father, but because of his love for his brothers. (p. 326)
  • · Jacob enters the palace and all those present are aware of his dignity. (p. 318)

Philo proves to be a sensitive reader of the text – sensitive to the underlying philosophical issues as well as a staunch defender of Judaism. Perhaps because he lived among non-Jews, within the general society, he intuited that attacks on Abraham and Sarah are tantamount to attacks on the underpinnings of Judaism and, through a subtle process of anti-Semitism, on every Jew. Alternatively, he may simply have seen the patriarchs and matriarchs as spiritual giants – people whose thoughts and actions were far more elevated than those of common men, people who were far above the petty jealousies and foolish mistakes more cynical readers ascribe to them, people who actually were “larger than life.” Philo teaches us that in order to look at them at all, to see and understand them, to learn from them – we must look up.

Rabbi Leo Samuel has done an outstanding service, both to Philo and to modern readers. In Torah from Alexandria , Philo’s ancient Torah commentary becomes readable and meaningful, exciting and contemporary. I look forward to future volumes.


Gems were mostly cut by using abrasive powder from harder stones in conjunction with a hand-drill, probably often set in a lathe. Emery has been mined for abrasive powder on Naxos since antiquity. Some early types of seal were cut by hand, rather than a drill, which does not allow fine detail. There is no evidence that magnifying lenses were used by gem cutters in antiquity. A medieval guide to gem-carving techniques survives from Theophilus Presbyter. Byzantine cutters used a flat-edged wheel on a drill for intaglio work, while Carolingian ones used round-tipped drills it is unclear where they learnt this technique from. In intaglio gems at least, the recessed cut surface is usually very well preserved, and microscopic examination is revealing of the technique used. [3] The colour of several gemstones can be enhanced by a number of artificial methods, using heat, sugar and dyes. Many of these can be shown to have been used since antiquity – since the 7th millennium BC in the case of heating. [4]

The technique has an ancient tradition in the Near East, and is represented in all or most early cultures from the area, and the Indus Valley civilization. The cylinder seal, whose design only appears when rolled over damp clay, from which the flat ring type developed, was the usual form in Mesopotamia, Assyria and other cultures, and spread to the Aegean and Minoan world, including parts of Greece and Cyprus. These were made in various types of stone, not all hardstone, and gold rings were a related development in Minoan seals, which are often very fine. The Greek tradition emerged in Ancient Greek art under Minoan influence on mainland Helladic culture, and reached an apogee of subtlety and refinement in the Hellenistic period. Pre-Hellenic Ancient Egyptian seals tend to have inscriptions in hieroglyphs rather than images. The Biblical Book of Exodus describes the form of the hoshen, a ceremonial breastplate worn by the High Priest, bearing twelve gems engraved with the names of the Twelve tribes of Israel.

Round or oval Greek gems (along with similar objects in bone and ivory) are found from the 8th and 7th centuries BC, usually with animals in energetic geometric poses, often with a border marked by dots or a rim. [5] Early examples are mostly in softer stones. Gems of the 6th century are more often oval, [6] with a scarab back (in the past this type was called a "scarabaeus"), and human or divine figures as well as animals the scarab form was apparently adopted from Phoenicia. [7] The forms are sophisticated for the period, despite the usually small size of the gems. [8] In the 5th century gems became somewhat larger, but still only 2-3 centimetres tall. Despite this, very fine detail is shown, including the eyelashes on one male head, perhaps a portrait. Four gems signed by Dexamenos of Chios are the finest of the period, two showing herons. [9]

Relief carving became common in 5th century BC Greece, and gradually most of the spectacular carved gems in the Western tradition were in relief, although the Sassanian and other traditions remained faithful to the intaglio form. Generally a relief image is more impressive than an intaglio one in the earlier form the recipient of a document saw this in the impressed sealing wax, while in the later reliefs it was the owner of the seal who kept it for himself, probably marking the emergence of gems meant to be collected or worn as jewellery pendants in necklaces and the like, rather than used as seals – later ones are sometimes rather large to use to seal letters. However inscriptions are usually still in reverse ("mirror-writing") so they only read correctly on impressions (or by viewing from behind with transparent stones). This aspect also partly explains the collecting of impressions in plaster or wax from gems, which may be easier to appreciate than the original.

The cameo, which is rare in intaglio form, seems to have reached Greece around the 3rd century the Farnese Tazza is the only major surviving Hellenistic example (depending on the date assigned to the Gonzaga Cameo – see below), but other glass-paste imitations with portraits suggest that gem-type cameos were made in this period. [10] The conquests of Alexander the Great had opened up new trade routes to the Greek world and increased the range of gemstones available. [11] Roman gems generally continued Hellenistic styles, and can be hard to date, until their quality sharply declines at the end of the 2nd century AD. Philosophers are sometimes shown Cicero refers to people having portraits of their favourite on their cups and rings. [12] The Romans invented cameo glass, best known from the Portland Vase, as a cheaper material for cameos, and one that allowed consistent and predictable layers on even round objects.

During the European Middle Ages antique engraved gems were one classical art form which was always highly valued, and a large but unknown number of ancient gems have (unlike most surviving classical works of art) never been buried and then excavated. Gems were used to decorate elaborate pieces of goldsmith work such as votive crowns, book-covers and crosses, sometimes very inappropriately given their subject matter. Matthew Paris illustrated a number of gems owned by St Albans Abbey, including one large Late Roman imperial cameo (now lost) called Kaadmau which was used to induce overdue childbirths – it was slowly lowered, with a prayer to St Alban, on its chain down the woman's cleavage, as it was believed that the infant would flee downwards to escape it, [13] a belief in accordance with the views of the "father of mineralogy", Georgius Agricola (1494–1555) on jasper. [14] Some gems were engraved, mostly with religious scenes in intaglio, during the period both in Byzantium and Europe. [15]

In the West production revived from the Carolingian period, when rock crystal was the commonest material. The Lothair Crystal (or Suzanna Crystal, British Museum, 11.5 cm diameter), clearly not designed for use as a seal, is the best known of 20 surviving Carolingian large intaglio gems with complex figural scenes, although most were used for seals. [16] Several crystals were designed, like the Susanna Crystal, to be viewed through the gem from the unengraved side, so their inscriptions were reversed like the seals. In wills and inventories, engraved gems were often given pride of place at the head of a list of treasures. [17]

Some gems in a remarkably effective evocation of classical style were made in Southern Italy for the court of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor in the first half of the 13th century, several in the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris. Meanwhile, the church led the development of large, often double-sided, metal seal matrices for wax seals that were left permanently attached to charters and similar legal documents, dangling by a cord, though smaller ring seals that were broken when a letter was opened remained in use. It is not clear to what extent this also continued practices in the ancient world.

The late medieval French and Burgundian courts collected and commissioned gems, and began to use them for portraits. The British Museum has what is probably a seated portrait of John, Duke of Berry in intaglio on a sapphire, and the Hermitage has a cameo head of Charles VII of France. [18]

Interest had also revived in Early Renaissance Italy, where Venice soon became a particular centre of production. Along with the Roman statues and sarcophagi being newly excavated, antique gems were prime sources for artists eager to regain a classical figurative vocabulary. Cast bronze copies of gems were made, which circulated around Italy, and later Europe. [19] Among very many examples of borrowings that can be traced confidently, the Felix or Diomedes gem owned by Lorenzo de' Medici (see below), with an unusual pose, was copied by Leonardo da Vinci and may well have provided the "starting point" for one of Michelangelo's ignudi on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. [20] Another of Lorenzo's gems supplied, probably via a drawing by Perugino, a pose used by Raphael. [21]

By the 16th century carved and engraved gems were keenly collected across Europe for dedicated sections of a cabinet of curiosities, and their production revived, in classical styles 16th-century gem-cutters working with the same types of sardonyx and other hardstones and using virtually the same techniques, produced classicizing works of glyptic art, often intended as forgeries, in such quantity that they compromised the market for them, as Gisela Richter observed in 1922. [22] Even today, Sir John Boardman admits that "We are sometimes at a loss to know whether what we are looking at belongs to the 1st or the 15th century AD, a sad confession for any art-historian." [23] Other Renaissance gems reveal their date by showing mythological scenes derived from literature that were not part of the visual repertoire in classical times, or borrowing compositions from Renaissance paintings, and using "compositions with rather more figures than any ancient engraver would have tolerated or attempted". [23] Among artists, the wealthy Rubens was a notable collector. [24]

Engraved gems occur in the Bible, especially when the hoshen and ephod worn by the High Priest are described though these were inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel in letters, rather than any images. A few identifiably Jewish gems survive from the classical world, including Persia, mostly with the owner's name in Hebrew, but some with symbols such as the menorah. [25] Many gems are inscribed in the Islamic world, typically with verses from the Koran, and sometimes gems in the Western tradition just contain inscriptions.

Many Asian and Middle Eastern cultures have their own traditions, although for example the important Chinese tradition of carved gemstones and hardstones, especially jade carving, is broader than the European one of concentration on a flattish faced stone that might fit into a ring. Seal engraving covers the inscription that is printed by stamping, which nearly always only contains script rather than images. Other decoration of the seal itself was not intended to be reproduced.

The iconography of gems is similar to that of coins, though more varied. Early gems mostly show animals. Gods, satyrs, and mythological scenes were common, and famous statues often represented – much modern knowledge of the poses of lost Greek cult statues such as Athena Promachos comes from the study of gems, which often have clearer images than coins. [26] A 6th(?) century BC Greek gem already shows Ajax committing suicide, with his name inscribed. [27] The story of Heracles was, as in other arts, the most common source of narrative subjects. A scene may be intended as the subject of an early Archaic gem, and certainly appears on 6th century examples from the later Archaic period. [28]

Portraits of monarchs are found from the Hellenistic period onwards, although as they do not usually have identifying inscriptions, many fine ones cannot be identified with a subject. In the Roman Imperial period, portraits of the imperial family were often produced for the court circle, and many of these have survived, especially a number of spectacular cameos from the time of Augustus. As private objects, produced no doubt by artists trained in the tradition of Hellenistic monarchies, their iconography is less inhibited than the public state art of the period about showing divine attributes as well as sexual matters. [29] The identity and interpretation of figures in the Gemma Augustea remains unclear. A number of gems from the same period contain scenes apparently from the lost epic on the Sack of Troy, of which the finest is by Dioskurides (Chatsworth House). [30]

Renaissance and later gems remain dominated by the Hellenistic repertoire of subjects, though portraits in contemporary styles were also produced.

Famous collectors begin with King Mithridates VI of Pontus (d. 63 BC), whose collection was part of the booty of Pompey the Great, who donated it to the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. [31] Julius Caesar was determined to excel Pompey in this as in other areas, and later gave six collections to his own Temple of Venus Genetrix according to Suetonius gems were among his varied collecting passions. [32] Many later emperors also collected gems. Chapters 4-6 of Book 37 of the Natural History of Pliny the Elder give a summary art history of the Greek and Roman tradition, and of Roman collecting. According to Pliny Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (praetor 56 BC) was the first Roman collector. [33]

As in later periods objects carved in the round from semi-precious stone were regarded as a similar category of object these are also known as hardstone carvings. One of the largest, the Coupe des Ptolémées was probably donated to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, near Paris, by Charles the Bald, as the inscription on its former gem-studded gold Carolingian mounting stated it may have belonged to Charlemagne. One of the best collections of such vessels, though mostly plain without carved decoration, was looted from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, and is in the Treasury of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. Many of these retain the medieval mounts which adapted them for liturgical use. [34] Like the Coupe des Ptolémées, most objects in European museums lost these when they became objects of classicist interest from the Renaissance onwards, or when the mounts were removed for the value of the materials, as happened to many in the French Revolution.

The collection of 827 engraved gems of Pope Paul II, [35] which included the "Felix gem" of Diomedes with the Palladium, [36] was acquired by Lorenzo il Magnifico the Medici collection included many other gems and was legendary, valued in inventories much higher than his Botticellis. Somewhat like Chinese collectors, Lorenzo had all his gems inscribed with his name. [37]

The Gonzaga Cameo passed through a series of famous collections before coming to rest in the Hermitage. First known in the collection of Isabella d'Este, it passed to the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua, Emperor Rudolf II, Queen Christina of Sweden, Cardinal Decio Azzolini, Livio Odescalchi, Duke of Bracciano, and Pope Pius VI before Napoleon carried it off to Paris, where his Empress Joséphine gave it to Alexander I of Russia after Napoleon's downfall, as a token of goodwill. [38] It remains disputed whether the cameo is Alexandrian work of the 3rd century BC, or a Julio-Claudian imitation of the style from the 1st century AD. [39]

Three of the largest cameo gems from antiquity were created for members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and seem to have survived above ground since antiquity. The large Gemma Augustea appeared in 1246 in the treasury of the Basilique St-Sernin, Toulouse. In 1533, King François I appropriated it and moved it to Paris, where it soon disappeared around 1590. Not long thereafter it was fenced for 12,000 gold pieces to Emperor Rudolph II it remains in Vienna, alongside the Gemma Claudia. The largest flat engraved gem known from antiquity is the Great Cameo of France, which entered (or re-entered) the French royal collection in 1791 from the treasury of Sainte-Chapelle, where it had been since at least 1291.

In England, a false dawn of gem collecting was represented by Henry, Prince of Wales' purchase of the cabinet of the Flemish antiquary Abraham Gorlaeus in 1609, [40] and engraved gems featured among the antiquities assembled by Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel. Later in the century William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, formed a collection of gems that is still conserved at Chatsworth. [41] In the eighteenth century a more discerning cabinet of gems was assembled by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, acting upon the advice of Francesco Maria Zanetti and Francesco Ficoroni 170 of the Carlisle gems, both Classical and post-Classical, were purchased in 1890 for the British Museum.

By the mid-eighteenth century prices had reached such a level that major collections could only be formed by the very wealthy lesser collectors had to make do with collecting plaster casts, [42] which was also very popular, or buying one of many sumptuously illustrated catalogues of collections that were published. [43] Catherine the Great's collection is in the Hermitage Museum one large collection she had bought was the gems from the Orléans Collection. [44] Louis XV of France hired Dominique Vivant to assemble a collection for Madame de Pompadour.

In the eighteenth century British aristocrats were able to outcompete even the agents for royal and princely collectors on the Continent, aided by connoisseur-dealers like Count Antonio Maria Zanetti and Philipp von Stosch. Zanetti travelled Europe in pursuit of gems hidden in private collections for the British aristocrats he tutored in connoisseurship [45] his own collection was described in A.F. Gori, Le gemme antiche di Anton Maria Zanetti (Venice, 1750), illustrated with eighty plates of engravings from his own drawings. Baron Philipp von Stosch (1691–1757), a Prussian who lived in Rome and then Florence, was a major collector, as well as a dealer in engraved gems: "busy, unscrupulous, and in his spare time a spy for England in Italy". [23] Among his contemporaries, Stosch made his lasting impression with Gemmæ Antiquæ Cælatæ (Pierres antiques graveés) (1724), in which Bernard Picart's engravings reproduced seventy antique carved hardstones like onyx, jasper and carnelian from European collections. He also encouraged Johann Lorenz Natter (1705–1763) whom Stosch set to copying ancient carved gems in Florence. Frederick the Great of Prussia bought Stosch's collection in 1765 and built the Antique Temple in the park of the Sanssouci Palace to house his collections of ancient sculpture, coins and over 4,000 gems – the two were naturally often grouped together. The gems are now in the Antikensammlung Berlin.

The collection of Joseph Smith, British consul in Venice was bought by King George III of Great Britain and remains in the Royal Collection. The collections of Charles Towneley, Richard Payne Knight and Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode were bought by or bequeathed to the British Museum, founding their very important collection. [46]

But the most famous English collection was that formed by the 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739–1817), "which the Duke kept in his bedroom and resorted to as a relief from his ambitious wife, his busy sister and his many children". [47] This included collections formerly owned by the Gonzagas of Mantua (later owned by Lord Arundel), the 2nd Earl of Bessborough, and the brother of Lord Chesterfield, who himself warned his son in one of his Letters against "days lost in poring upon imperceptible intaglios and cameos". [48] The collection, including its single most famous cameo, the "Marlborough gem" depicting an initiation of Cupid and Psyche, was dispersed after a sale in 1899, fortunately timed for the new American museums and provided the core of the collection of the Metropolitan in New York and elsewhere, [19] with the largest group still together being about 100 in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. [48] [49]

Prince Stanisław Poniatowski (1754–1833) "commissioned about 2500 gems and encouraged the belief that they were, in fact, ancient." He presented a set of 419 plaster impressions of his collection to the King of Prussia which now form the Daktyliothek Poniatowski in Berlin, where they were recognised as modern in 1832, mainly because the signatures of ancient artists from very different times were found on gems in too consistent a style. [50]

As in other fields, not many ancient artists' names are known from literary sources, although some gems are signed. According to Pliny, Pyrgoteles was the only artist allowed to carve gems for the seal rings of Alexander the Great. Most of the most famous Roman artists were Greeks, like Dioskurides, who is thought to have produced the Gemma Augustea, and is recorded as the artist of the matching signet rings of Augustus – very carefully controlled, they allowed orders to be issued in his name by his most trusted associates. Other works survive signed by him (rather more than are all likely to be genuine), and his son Hyllos was also a gem engraver. [51]

The Anichini family were leading artists in Venice and elsewhere in the 15th and 16th centuries. Many Renaissance artists no doubt kept their activities quiet, as they were passing their products off as antique. Other specialist carvers included Giovanni Bernardi (1494–1553), Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (c. 1500–1565), Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli (1662–1719), the German-Italian Anton Pichler (1697–1779) and his sons Giovanni and Luigi, Charles Christian Reisen (Anglo-Norwegian, 1680–1725). Other sculptors also carved gems, or had someone in their workshop who did. Leone Leoni said he personally spent two months on a double-sided cameo gem with portraits of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his wife and son. [52]

The Scot James Tassie (1735–1799), and his nephew William (1777–1860) developed methods for taking hard impressions from old gems, and also for casting new designs from carved wax in enamel, enabling a huge production of what are really imitation engraved gems. The fullest catalogue of his impressions ("Tassie gems") was published in 1791, with 15,800 items. [53] There are complete sets of the impressions in the Hermitage, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and in Edinburgh. [54] Other types of imitation became fashionable for ladies' brooches, such as ceramic cameos by Josiah Wedgwood in jasperware. The engraved gem fell permanently out of fashion from about the 1860s, [19] perhaps partly as a growing realization of the number of gems that were not what they seemed to be scared collectors. Among the last practitioners was James Robertson, who sensibly moved into the new art of photography. Perhaps the best known gem engraver of the 20th century, working in a contemporary idiom, is the British artist Ronald Pennell, [55] whose work is held in the British Crafts Council Collection among many others.

Cameo glass was invented by the Romans in about 30BC to imitate engraved hardstone cameos, with the advantage that consistent layering could be achieved even on round vessels – impossible with natural gemstones. It was however very difficult to manufacture and surviving pieces, mostly famously the Portland Vase, are actually much rarer than Roman gemstone cameos. [56] The technique was revived in the 18th and especially 19th centuries in England and elsewhere, [57] and was most effectively used in French Art Nouveau glass that made no attempt to follow classical styles.

The Middle Ages, which lived by charters and other sealed documents, were at least as keen on using seals as the ancient world, now creating them for towns and church institutions, but they normally used metal matrices and signet rings. However some objects, like a 13th-century Venetian Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, mimicked the engraved gem. [58]

Another offshoot of the mania for engraved gems is the fine-grained slightly translucent stoneware called jasperware that was developed by Josiah Wedgwood and perfected in 1775. [59] Though white-on-blue matte jasperware is the most familiar Wedgwood ceramic line, still in production today and widely imitated since the mid-19th century, white-on-black was also produced. Wedgwood made notable jasperware copies of the Portland Vase and the Marlborough gem, a famous head of Antinous, [60] and interpreted in jasperware casts from antique gems by James Tassie. John Flaxman's neoclassical designs for jasperware were carried out in the extremely low relief typical of cameo production. Some other porcelain imitated three-layer cameos purely by paint, even in implausible objects like a flat Sèvres tea-tray of 1840. [61]

Gems were a favourite topic for antiquaries from the Renaissance onwards, culminating in the work of Philipp von Stosch, described above. Major progress in understanding Greek gems was made in the work of Adolf Furtwängler (1853–1907, father of the conductor, Wilhelm). Among recent scholars Sir John Boardman (b. 1927) has made a special contribution, again concentrating on Greek gems. Gertrud Seidmann (1919–2013) moved into the subject, having previously been a German teacher.

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Meaning of High Priest Breastplate Gems

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  • This article in our series on precious stones in the Bible will discuss the exact placement of gems within the High Priest's breastplate
  • We will also explore the linkage between the stones and the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • Foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14 to 7:28, 9, 10), the High Priest

High Priest's Breastplate Gems in the Bible and Torah

  • Sacred Stones: High Priest's Breastplate Gems in the Bible and Torah Crystal Gemstones Used for Miraculous Guidance and Symbolism
  • Share Flipboard Email Print The priest's breastplate

The High Priest’s Breastplate (Choshen)

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  • The breastplate (choshen) was one of the eight priestly garments worn by the high priest (kohen gadol) when serving in the Holy Temple.It featured twelve precious stones, corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel, and served as a medium through which G‑d provided direction to the Jewish nation.

The significance of the high priest's breastplate » Kehila

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  • The second focal point of the breastplate were the 12 gemstones of Exodus 28:17-21 that were on the front, which lay over the heart of the High Priest
  • Unlike the gems on the shoulder piece, these stones were different one from another.

What Were the Gemstones of the Breastplate of Aaron

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  • I’d love to have some feedback on the identity of the gemstones of the breastplate of Aaron.In Exodus 28:15-21, the breastplate of Aaron is described in great detail.In the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, a different gemstone is listed for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.They are, in the 1 st row, carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald in the 2 nd row, turquoise, sapphire, and amethyst

E39-1: The prophetic significance of the 12 stones on the

E39-2: What was the purpose of the bells attached to the hem of the High Priest's robe? E39-1: The prophetic significance of the 12 stones on the High Priest's breastplate E38-2: During the times of Moses and King David the SHEKEL was just a unit of weight E38-1: The Tabernacle is the perfect example of giving ONE'S BEST to the Lord

The Gems in the High Priest’s Breastplate: A Pragmatic Review

  • The breastplate was to be at-tached to the Ephod worn by the High Priest by gold chains held by gold rings on the shoulder straps
  • The gems contributed by the ancient Israelites in the wilderness were used in the Tabernacle as described in Ex
  • The identity of the gems has remained ambivalent throughout history.

The Gems on the High Priest's Breastplate

  • The Gems on the High Priest's Breastplate
  • Graphic Design by Rusty Russell
  • For best viewing set your display settings to High-Color 800x600 or better in control panel
  • These are actual gems in modern times and the name of each tribe is inscribed on the stone
  • Each transparency contains a full size and full color image of each gem.

Gems In The Bible

The High Priest’s Breastplate – All


Biblical Aaron Wore a Golden Breastplate Fashioned With 12

  • The biblical Aaron may have been the original King of Bling
  • More than 3,300 years ago, the first high priest of the Hebrews (and older brother of Moses) dazzled his followers with a gleaming breastplate fashioned with gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel
  • The inscribed gems — which included emerald, sapphire, amethyst and topaz…

Amazon.com: high priest breastplate

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  • Healing Crystals Kabbalah Jewelry Hoshen, Avnei Choshen, 12 Tribes of Israel Necklace Gift, High Priest Breastplate Precious and Semi-Precious Gemstones Jewels, 14k Gold-Filled 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 $159.00 $ 159

The Breastplate Of Judgment: Part 4 of 6- High Priest’s

  • The Breastplate Of Judgment: Part 4 of 6- High Priest’s Garments Series
  • 29 “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually.”
  • As you read in part 3, the Breastplate of Judgment is the most expensive part of the

A History of Birthstones and the Breastplate of Aaron

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  • Described in Exodus is the Breastplate of Aaron, a sacred object worn by the High Priest of the Israelites in order to communicate with God
  • Worn over the Priest’s sacred vestments, it was attached by shoulder straps at the corners and contained twelve gemstones
  • The first academic research of the Breastplate was carried out by Roman scholar

THE STONES OF The Twelve Tribes of Israel — One Yahweh

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  • High Priest Breastplate Gemstones
  • Many gem scholars agree that the tradition of birthstones arose from the Breastplate of Aaron: a ceremonial religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel and also corresponded with the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the year.

BREASTPLATE STONES sapphirethroneministries

  • On the High Priest’s Breastplate were 12 stones with the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel written on them
  • A common question I am hearing these days is: What about those stones on the Breastplate? There’s a reason you don’t hear a lot about those Breastplate stones
  • The details surrounding them are quite enigmatic.…

The High Priest’s Breastplate Guide To The Bible

  • The High Priest’s Breastplate
  • The Bible tells us in Exodus 28 that a breastplate with twelve precious and semi-precious stones was made for Aaron the High Priest
  • This study will hopefully reveal where these stones came from and where they could be today, with the view that they could be all found and once again used in the next High Priest

Identifying the Twelve Stones in the Breastplate of the

The origin of our twelve birthstones and their colors is rooted in the twelve colored stones in the breastplate of the high priest of ancient Israel.The fact that our birthstones are not only associated with different tribes, but also with different months, shows that there was a strong tradition that each of the twelve sons of Jacob was born at a distinct time of year.

The Gemstones In The Breastplate

  • Bible scholars have long been fascinated by the Breastplate worn by the High Priest of Israel
  • Set in precious stones it occupied an important place in Israelitish worship for it contained the instruments by which God revealed His Divine will to His chosen people
  • The gem stones are significant in that each stone is engraved with the name of a

Onyx stone thought to be a gem from the breastplate of a

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The stones of the choshen mishpat, the High Priest's breastplate, were referred to in the Bible as the urim v'tummim, or Urim and the Thummim, a phrase that has yet to be defined.

Watch the video: Πήραν σηκωτή εβραϊκή συναγωγή (January 2022).