The Breastplate of the Hebrew High Priest
"And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place for a memorial before the Lord continually" [Exodus 28.29]
Crystals were of great importance to the Hebrew religious order. It was said that the High Priest kept two unidentified crystals within his breastplate called the Urim (representing light and excellence) and the Thummim (representing perfection and completion). These stones were consulted during matters of urgency. They would be held before a flickering candle and as the light fell onto one of the 12 stones named below a hebrew letter was assigned to each flicker. And thus it was said that God talked tto the High Priest in this manner.
The uppermost holy garment is apron-like and is called the Ephod. On top of the Ephod there is the square breastplate, with the twelve precious stones. On the shoulders were the two additional precious stones. The blue garment is called the robe, under which the high priest wore a white fine linen woven tunic. On his head is the white fine linen turban. Round the base of the turban is the crown of gold, saying "HOLY TO THE LORD".
Though there is disagreement as to the exact identity of the 12 stones worn on the sacred breastplate, the following 12 are generally accepted as the correct stones. Each stone was assigned to a particular tribe of Israel.
Judah - Sardius (Red)
The tribe of Judah was Biblically, initially the only one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
to follow the house of David to found the Southern Kingdom.
Issachar - Topaz (Pale green)
According to the Torah, this tribe was founded by Issachar, the ninth son of Jacob, and a son of Leah, from whom it took its name.
Zebulon - Carbuncle (Deep red)
Zebulon refers primarily to the people of Holland. In general Israelites settled in
that area. A people named Sebulingoi were recorded as being there and this name means "People of Zebulon". Zebulon, in Talmudic Literature, was pictured as a merchant seafarer.
Reuben - Emerald (Green)
The tribe was named after the oldest of Jacob's sons born of Leah, his first wife.
Simeon - Sapphire (Deep blue)
Simeon was the second son of Jacob by Lia. His name derives from the word from
the word "shama", "to hear".
Gad - Diamond (Transparent)
Gad was the seventh son of Jacob, and the first by Zelpha, Lia's handmaid. There is also a Pagan Deity who bears the name of "Gad".
Ephraim - Ligure (Dull red)
It was Ephraim who formed the House of Joseph. Ephraim, a son of Joseph, received
the blessing of the firstborn, although Manasseh was the eldest, because Jacob
foresaw that Ephraim's descendants would be greater than his brother's
Manasseh - Agate (Gray)
Manasseh was the older son of Joseph and Asenath, daughter of Potiphera (priest of the sun god Re of heliopolis). Manasseh had an Aramean concubine who bore Machir, the father of Gilead.
Benjamin - Amethyst (Purple)
Benjamin is one of the tribes that later became what is known as the Jewish
people. The tribe was named after the younger of two children born to Jacob
and his second wife, Rachel.
Dan - Beryl (bluish green)
The tribe of Dan was named after the first of two sons born to Jacob and Bilhah, the maidservant of Jacob's second wife, Rachel.
The tribe of Dan is suspected by biblical scholars to have evolved from the Denyen, one of the groups of Sea Peoples, the name Dan being a corruption of Denyen
Asher - Onyx (Bluish white)
The tribe of Asher was named after the younger of two sons born to Jacob
and Zilpah, the maidservant of Jacob's first wife, Leah.
The name "Asher is derived from the Hebrew word "osher" meaning happy.
Naphtali - Jasper (Green)
Naphtali is said to be the second son of Jacob and Bilhah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Naphtali.
The Torah states that Naphtali had four sons, who migrated with him to Egypt, with their descendants remaining there until the Exodus.