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Gemspedia >> Gems >> Gems of the Apostles

Gems of the Apostles

In the Bible’s New Testament (Revelations 21:19-21) we are told about a group of twelve gemstones set in the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem:


21:19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was Jasper; the second,Sapphire; the third, a Chalcedony; the fourth, an Emerald;


21:20 The fifth, Sardonyx; the sixth, Sardius; the seventh, Chrysolite; the eighth, Beryl; the ninth, a Topaz; the tenth, a Chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a Jacinth; the twelfth,anAmethyst.


21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve Pearls: every several gate was of one Pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

It is important to note that where modern color varieties exist, specific colors are not mentioned, and also many of the Biblical gem names are no longer commonly used. To put these in a modern context, we have reviewed these gems, provided their modern name and included color recommendations based on availability as well as historical accuracy. In this regard, we are greatly helped by Andreas, Bishop of Caesurae. Writing in the late 10th century, he was one of the earliest writers to tie the Apostles with the symbolism of the twelve gems of Jerusalem. His writings are as follows:

 

"The Jasper, which like the Emerald is of a greenish hue, probably signifies St. Peter, chief of the Apostles, as one who so bore Christ’s death in his inmost nature that his love for him was always vigorous and fresh. By his fervent faith he has become our shepherd and leader.


As the Sapphire is likened to the heavens ( from this gemstone is made a color popularly called Lazur), I conceived it to mean St. Paul, since he was caught up to the third heaven, where his soul was firmly fixed. Thither he seeks to draw all those who may be obedient to him.


The Chalcedony was not inserted in the high-priest’s breastplate, but instead the Carbuncle, of which no mention is made here. It may well be, however, that the author designated the Carbuncle by the name Chalcedony. Andrew, then, can be likened to the Carbuncle, since he was splendidly illuminated by the fire of the Spirit.


The Emerald, which is of a green color, is nourished with oil, that its transparency and beauty may not change; we conceive this gemstone to signify John the Evangelist. He, indeed, soothed the souls dejected by sin with a divine oil, and by the grace of his excellent doctrine lends constant strength to our faith.


By the Sardonyx, showing with a certain transparency and purity the color of the human nail, we believe that James is denoted, seeing that he bore the death for Christ before all others. This the nail by its color indicates, for it may be cut off without any sensible pain.


The Sardius with its tawny and translucent coloring suggests fire, and it possess the virtue of healing tumors and wounds inflicted by iron; hence I consider that it designates the beauty of virtue characterizing the apostle Philip, for his virtue, animates by the fire of the Holy Spirit, cured the soul of the wounds inflicted by the wiles of the devil, and revived it.


The Chrysolite, gleaming with the splendor of gold, may symbolize Bartholomew, since he was illustrious for his divine preaching and his store of virtues.


The Beryl, imitating the colors of the sea and of the air, and not unlike the Jacinth, seems to suggest the admirable Thomas, especially as he made a long journey by sea and even reached the Indies, sent by God to preach salvation to the peoples of that region.


The Topaz, which is of the ruddy color, resembling somewhat the Carbuncle, stops the discharge of the milky fluid with which those having eye-disease suffer. This seems to denote Matthew, for he was animated by divine zeal, and his blood being fired because of Christ, he was found worthy to enlighten by his Gospel those whose heart was blinded, that they might like newborn children drink of the milk of the faith.


The Chrysoprase, more brightly tinged with a golden hue than gold itself, symbolizes St. Thaddaeus; the gold (Chrysos) symbolizing the kingdom of Christ and the "Prassius", Christ’s death, both of which he preached to Abgar, King of Edessa.


The Jacinth, which is of a celestial hue, signifies Simon Zelotes, zealous for the gifts and grace of Christ and endowed with a celestial prudence.


By the Amethyst, which shows to the onlooker a fiery aspect, is signified Matthias, who in the gift of tongues was so filled with celestial fire and with fervent zeal to serve and please God, who had chosen him, that he was found worthy to take the place of the apostle Judas."


Interestingly, as you can see below (Revelations 21:14), the Apostles and these gems are directly linked in the Bible:

21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


However, early Christian theologians had little interest in associating these gems with the Apostles. This is most likely due to concerns that associating the Apostles with the folklore of gemstones was akin to paganism and thus heretical. However, once Christianity became universal across the remnants of the Roman Empire, pagan traditions and superstitions were less feared, allowing the ancient virtues of these gemstones to become a feature of Christianity. The shift from viewing these gems from a purely religious standpoint to appreciating them for there esoteric attributes was also probably due to an increased awareness of gemology amongst scholars and also improvements in lapidary creating a greater demand for more beautiful and better finished gemstones.

 

However, this was not universal and some fundamentalist theologians criticized Andreas for connecting the Apostles with the symbolism of the twelve gems of Jerusalem. They claimed that only Christ could be associated with the gemstones set in the foundations of his church! Regardless of your own interpretations, nothing better represents the highest regard for the Christian faith than wearing these gemstones, either in combination or singularly.

 

Below are the modern gems we feel best relate to those mentioned in Revelations. Although we do not always exactly follow the writings of Andreas, our rationale is explained in each instance. After all, throughout history the gemstones used in religion have always been the best examples of that gem type available.

 

Jasper

While Andreas mentions Green Jasper, all pure colors, including red, have been uncovered in archeological excavations corresponding to Biblical times. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle St. Peter.

 

Sapphire

While the Greeks and Romans (and by virtue, Andreas), called Lapis Lazuli "Sapphirus", this Latin word is now used to describe blue corundum. As Sapphires are far more attractive than Lapis Lazuli, they would have undoubtedly been used if they had been widely available at this time. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle St. Paul.

 

Chalcedony

Now a family name that includes Jasper, Cornelian, Sardonyx and Chysophase, it is blue when used without a color prefix. This is really open to interpretation, even by Andreas, as he refers to this gem as Carbuncle, the ancient name for all red gemstones. Given that Andreas’s association is tenuous,Ruby, Red Garnets or the modern Chalcedony, are all 


acceptable. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle St. Andrew.

 

Emerald

Emeralds are the green variety of Beryl and are associated with the Apostle St. John the Evangelist.

 

Sardonyx

This gemstone is a variety of Agate with reddish brown and white or black bands. Given that Fire Agate is currently the most coveted and expensive Agate, this too should be considered acceptable. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle James.

 

Sardius

Now called Cornelian, this gemstone is typically red or orange and is associated with the Apostle Philip.

 

Chrysolite

This gemstone is now called Peridot. While yellowish green is probably the most historically accurate color, it also comes in olive green. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle Bartholomew.

 

Beryl

This is now a family name that includes Aquamarine and Emerald. While Andreas refers to the blues of Aquamarine, a Beryl of any color directly corresponds to the nomenclature. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle Thomas.

 

Topaz

As Andreas references a rosy color, Imperial Topaz is historically correct. This gemstone is associated with the Apostle Matthew.

 

Chrysoprase

This gemstone is green to apple green in color and is associated with the Apostle St. Thaddaeus.

 

Jacinth

 

While Jacinth is the ancient name for Red Zircon, Andreas’s reference to a "celestial hue" is open to interpretation. Is a "celestial hue" blue, red, orange or another color? Given that blue is currently this gems most popular color and certainly a celestial hue, it is acceptable. However, 
red or reddish brown Zircon is arguably more accurate. This gemstone is associated with the


Apostle Simon

 

Amethyst

Amethyst is the purple variety of Quartz and is associated with the Apostle Matthias.


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