The Breastplate of Aaron

In the readings of the Old Testament, there is mention of 12 sacred stones that came from the Mountain of God. The Mountain of God is where Moses received the Ten Commandments of God. In Exodus, Moses was given specific instructions to create a breastplate of judgment for his brother, the high priest Aaron, using sacred stones: Exodus 28:15-30

The mention of “12 stones” can be found multiple times throughout the bible, creating a theme of importance. We also have 12 months in a calendar year, with a traditional birthstone for each corresponding month.

There is a clear association between the 12 gems and the 12 sons (tribes) of Israel from the walls of Jerusalem denoting that each stone is inscribed accordingly with each tribe’s name.

Exodus 28:15-21

15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span [a] long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper.[b] Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.




Carnelian is a blood red color or it can be a pale skin color and is in the first stone (sard) in the breastplate. It also appears in the king’s treasure, and in the celestial city’s wall foundations. Carnelian was an important stone thought to prevent misfortune.


Chrysolite is a stone in the foundations of the wall. Orangey yellow in color, it gladdened the heart, helped people get over a fear of the dark, and drove away the devil. It was supposed to be healing for eye diseases.


Beryl is in the breastplate and the wall foundations. It can be pale blue to yellowy green, although it can also be white or rose. It relates to happiness and everlasting youth.


Turquoise, carnelian, and lapis lazuli were the most used gems by the ancients. There are more legends associated with turquoise than with any other gemstone. Turquoise was believed to prevent accidents, and to cure diseases of the head and the heart. It was also believed to make one invulnerable and it was placed on body armor, turbans, swords, and knives.

Lapis Lazuli

The biblical term “sapphire” was not always the sapphire we know today. “Sapphire” in the Mediterranean and Middle East in biblical times was almost always what we now refer to as lapis lazuli.


Emerald is in the breastplate, the wall foundations, and the Tyre treasures. It glitters and is a brilliant green. Emerald is actually a green beryl. It was supposed to preserve or restore sight. It signifies immortality and incorruptibility.


Jacinth is a foundation stone. It is reddish-orange in color and was thought to give second sight.


Agate was brought to Palestine by merchants from places such as Babylonia, Persia, Saba, and Reema in their caravans (Ezekiel 27:22). 


Amethyst appears in the breastplate, the wall foundations, and among the king’s treasures. This stone was thought to prevent intoxication. Drinkers would wear an amulet of amethyst for this reason. It is supposed to provide deep and pure love. It is a brilliant purple, close to the color of red wine.


Topaz was also features in all three of the important biblical references to precious stones. It signifies friendship and happiness.


Onyx appears in the breastplate and relates to marital happiness. Its color is white and black and sometimes includes brown.


Jasper is in the breastplate and The New Jerusalem wall itself was made of jasper. It is opaque, comes in most colors, and gives courage and wisdom.

Photo Credit: Edz Norton via

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Homegrown in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Mackley Jewelers has been East Tennessee’s hometown jeweler in Knoxville, TN for 41 years. Treating customers with respect, providing ethical service, and selling beautiful jewelry with natural stones is the foundation of Mackley Jewelers’ philosophy. We also offer a full range of professional Knoxville jewelry repair services performed by our talented jeweler right here, in-house. Every day, our goal is to be the best family-owned Knoxville jewelry store we can be all while giving our customers an authentic small business buying experience with genuine Southern charm.

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