THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


1.     adamant

Hebrew: shâmîr, derived from the root shâmâr, a thorn, because of its ability to scratch. The Hebrew name may be a cognate of the Akkadian for emery, shammu. Jeremiah 17:1, Ezekiel 3:9, Zechariah 7:12.

Greek: adamas, the unconquerable.

Probable Identification:

    EMERY, an impure form of corundum, which has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale and was capable of cutting the other available gemstones.


    Corundum (Al2O3) forms prismatic hexagonal-rhombic crystals in metamorphic rocks and a few igneous rocks, though it usually occurs as poor, fine grained crystals. Ruby and sapphire are gem varieties of clear red or blue corundum, but corundum crystals may also be white, grey, brown, black, pink, yellow, purple, or green. They have a glassy or adamantine luster, a conchoidal fracture, and an average 4.0 specific gravity. The use of rubies and sapphires in jewelry dates from about 500 BC.

    Emery is a greyish-black mixture of corundum and magnetite which the early Egyptians and Sumerians used as an abrasive powder and in whetstones. The Sumerians set crushed emery in lead to make the ancient counterpart of today’s emery boards. The Egyptians obtained their emery by trade from the Aegean island of Naxos, which later supplied Greek architects and sculptors with emery to polish their monuments and statuary.

Biblical background:

A heart harder than adamant describes the human condition that rejects divine sovereignty. God used the hardening of the unnamed Pharaoh’s heart redemptively (Exodus 4-14).


While diamond with a hardness of 10 has nearly five times the hardness of emery, diamonds did not reach the Middle East and Europe from India before the fifth century BC and were thus not available for engraving. The first use of diamonds in jewelry dates from about 480 BC, but advances in their use in jewelry had to await the Belgian invention of a diamond-polishing wheel in 1456. While the tradition of giving diamond wedding rings is dated to 1477, they really came into fashion in the 17th century, with the invention of the Mazarin cut, the first modern method of cutting facets to display their brilliance.

While forty two nations now produce diamonds, India remained the only source of diamonds until their discovery in South America.


    See also "RUBY" and "SAPPHIRE."


Davis, A. Paul, 1960. Aaron's breastplate. Lapidary Journal; 14-2: 168-174.

Hurlbut, Cornelius S., Jr. (Rev.), 1952. Dana’s Manual of mineralogy. 16th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons; 228.

_____, 1970. Minerals and Man. New York: Random House; 222.

Langerman, Charles, 2005. Natural Color Diamond Encyclopaedia. Http://

Levinson, Alfred A., 1998. Diamond sources and their discovery. In: Harlow, George E., ed., 1998. The nature of diamonds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 72-104.

Lucas, A., & J.R. Harris, 1962. Ancient Egyptian materials and industry. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 260-261.


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Last updated: 05/13/06.