Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

13.4 Gems in Religion


13.4: Gems in Religion

Gems and precious metals are mentioned in many holy books and have places in various religious and cultural traditions. Have your kids pick a religion or native culture and research mention of gems in religious texts or traditions. One helpful reference work you may be able to find in the library is R.V.S. Wright and Robert L. Chadbourne‘s Gems & Minerals of the Bible: The Lore & Mystery of the Minerals & Jewels of Scripture, from Adamant to Zircon (Keats Publishing, 1988). Here are a few examples to start things off:


In Exodus 28:17-21, the gold filigree breastplate of the high priest is described as adorned with four rows of three stones each: sard, topaz, and carbuncle; emerald, sapphire, and diamond; ligure (jacinth, or hyacinth), agate, and amethyst; and beryl, onyx, and jasper. Each of the stones represents one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Twelve Apostles have corresponding gemstones: Andrew – sapphire, Matthias – chrysolite, Bartholomew – peridot, Peter – jasper, James – chalcedony, Philip – carnelian or sardonyx, James bar Alpheus – topaz, Simon – zircon, John – emerald, Thaddeus – chrysoprase, Matthew – amethyst, and Thomas – beryl.

In Revelation 21:18-21, we see a vision of the New Jerusalem in which the foundations of the walls of the heavenly city are adorned in twelve layers of precious stones. From bottom to top, these are jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sard, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote: "When I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne."


Buddhist monks in India are said to have used amethyst to help in meditation.

For Tibetans, chalcedony symbolizes the purity of the Lotus flower.

Garnet is considered a holy stone bringing enlightenment and wisdom.


In Arab countries, moonstone is often given as a gift and blessing for a large family.

Native American:

Jade was revered by many cultures in Central and South America. For Mayans, jade preserved love, and nephrite jade was believed to stave off wounds.

For some Native American tribes, jasper is a magical rain stone.

Some North American Indians believe jet to be a protective stone that can bring comfort after the death of a relative.

According to legend, when Apache warriors leapt from a mountain to their death rather than being captured by enemies, tears of their families hit the ground and, as signs of enduring sorrow, they‘re now found as Apache tears obsidian.

Turquoise has long been considered a holy stone by American Indians; for some, it provides protection against harm.

Note: Kids who give a presentation or write an article can use this activity toward earning their Communication badge simultaneously (Activities 7.1 and 7.2).