THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


25.     diamond


    1. yahalôm, derived from a root meaning to smite, suggesting a stone which is hard enough to cut all others. Exodus 28:18, 39:11; Ezekiel 28:13.

    2. shâmîr, derived from the root shâmâr, a thorn, because of its ability to scratch. Jeremiah 17:1, Ezekiel 3:9, Zechariah 7:12.



Probable Identification: biblical diamond is either EMERY or JADE.

    1. Jade. Cognates with Ugaritic suggest that yahalôm is jadeite or nephrite, true jade.

    2. Shâmîr is emery, an impure form of corundum. Diamonds were unknown in the Middle East and not used for engraving before 500 BC. Their earliest source was India. See "ADAMANT."


    The term jade covers the tough, compact, and semiprecious forms of two different but related silicate minerals, jadeite and nephrite.

    Nephrite is a form of tremolite [Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2], an amphibole or silicate mineral with a double-chain structure. Jadeite (NaAlSi2O6) is a pyroxene or silicate mineral with a single-chain structure. Both minerals occur in metamorphic rocks: jadeite in serpentine and nephrite in talc schists. They range in color from white to green, though apple green is typical of jadeite. Traces of chromium give jadeite a bright green color, while iron imparts a darker spinach green color. Traces of manganese or vanadium impart a purple or violet color to some jadeite, and yellow, pink, and brown varieties are known. Nephrite and jadeite are difficult to distinguish visually, but jadeite fuses more easily and has an interlocking granular structure that makes it slightly harder and denser. Nephrite has a fibrous microstructure and is tougher and harder to fracture. Jadeite generally has somewhat brighter colors and a granular texture while nephrite has a homogeneous appearance. Early Chinese jade is principally the more common nephrite until because the Chinese did not exploit the rarer jadeite deposits of the Tawmaw and Hpakon areas of northern Burma until the eighteenth century.

Historical Background:

    Neolithic cultures worldwide independently made axe blades and other weapons and cutting tools of jadeite and nephrite because they hold keen edges without chipping and flaking. The Chinese, Mesopotamians, Olmecs and Mayans of Central America, and Maoris esteemed jade so highly that they also carved it into symbolic and ornamental objects. The Olmecs particularly prized a blue-green variety of jadeite.

    Ancient Mesopotamians used both minerals to make maces and axe-heads, vases, and signet rings. Nephrite and jadeite do not occur in Egypt, but numerous examples show that they reached Egypt in trade and tribute from predynastic times onward. Nephrite came from central Europe and Anatolia or Turkestan, Kashmir, and Siberia in Asia, while jadeite came from Burma, China, and Tibet. Nephrite and obsidian from Anatolia reached Neolithic Jericho by trade early in the eighth millennium BC.

    The Chinese have worked jade since probably at least 5,000 BC, and they valued it above all other substances as a link with heaven and the embodiment of many virtues. The Li Chi, a classic Chinese text, says of "the stone of heaven:"

"Benevolence lies in its gleaming surface,

Knowledge in its luminous quality,

Uprightness in its unyieldingness,

Power in its harmlessness,

Purity of soul in its rarity and spotlessness,

Moral leading in the fact that it goes from

hand to hand without being sullied."

    The term "yu" embraces almost any mineral that Chinese jade masters could routinely carve, including agate, jasper, rock crystal, fluorite, lapis lazuli, turquoise, serpentine, and soapstone. Bowenite or serpentinite may also be sold as jade today. The Chinese distinguished jadeite as ying-yu, hard jade, or ts'ui-yu, green and white jade, and nephrite as soft jade. Imperial jade, their most prized color, is a bright green.

    Recent experiments by a team of US and Chinese scientists suggest that early Chinese craftsmen used diamond and corundum abrasives as early as 2,500 BC to polish ceremonial jade axe heads. The modern researchers, however, were unable to replicate the fine polish of the ancient axes. I suggest that the Chinese craftsmen used a hot acid treatment similar to that used for polishing diamonds today.

    The shâmîr in Jeremiah 17:1 stands for the permanent record that sin inscribes in the life and innermost being of the wicked and in God’s records.


Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 182-186, 362, 369.

Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 396-397.

Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004.,,, &

Schumann, op. cit.; 154-157.

Seitz, Russell, George E. Harlow, Virginia B. Sisson, & Karl E. Taube, 2001. Formative jades and expanded jade sources in Guatemala. Antiquity; 75-290: 687-688.

Ward, Fred, 1996. Jade. Bethesda, Maryland: Gem Book Publishers.



Origin of Natural Diamond

     The Sanskrit word for diamond, vajra, means “thunderbolt” and it preserves the belief of ancient Hindus that bolts of lighting created the diamonds they found washed out of their source by floods.

Diamond, one of three natural forms[i] of crystalline carbon, element 6 in the periodic table, actually crystallizes in metamorphic rocks in the earth's mantle at depths of 150 to 200 km (90 to 120 miles), under temperatures exceeding 1,600 Kelvins and at more than 50,000 times atmospheric pressure. Challenging the theory that diamonds formed from graphite, Russian experimenters conclude that diamonds crystallize from mixtures of graphite and molten sodium or potassium carbonates. Diatremes, explosive volcanic injections of kimberlite or lamprophyre magmas into overlying crust, swept diamonds with them to the surface. Kimberlites and lamprophyres are uncommon basic igneous rocks, and their diapirs are termed "pipes." Nearly all pipes occur within ancient regions of continental cores known as archons, which are older than 2.5 billion years.             

Kimberlite contains no more than one part diamond to 14 million parts ore, but weathering concentrates the diamonds while reducing kimberlite to a sticky clay known as "blue ground." Denser diamonds remain in placer deposits when lighter clay minerals wash away. About 90% of South Africa’s 2002 production of 10.9 million carats came from kimberlite, while all of India’s were found in placer deposits.

Pure diamond is colorless, but a high content of graphite inclusions and other impurities in small industrial-grade diamonds or bort, causes them to range from brown to blackish and opaque. While inclusions may reduce the market value of individual stones, they offer invaluable windows into earth history and the origin of diamond in general.

Gemologist Emmanuel Fritsch estimates that clear and nearly colorless diamonds of gem quality outnumber colored or “fancy” stones by ten thousand to one. A trace of boron imparts a blue color, while a trace of nitrogen adds a yellow tinge. Internal deformations of the crystalline structure account for pink, red, and purple colors, while exposure to radioactivity induces green tints. Occasional fancy stones fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Pink stones from Australia’s Argyle mine are rated the most spectacular and highly prized fancy stones and can fetch more than a million dollars a carat.

Heat treatment under high pressure  by Sundance Diamonds has advanced to the point that it can change almost any brown diamond into a fancy or clear stone.

 Industrial applications consume 80 percent or about 100 million carats of today’s diamond production–-plus four times as much artificial diamond. These applications include primarily cutting, shaping, grinding, and polishing materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals, glass, and gems. Being harder and tougher than single-crystal diamond, polycrystalline diamond is particularly valuable for industrial applications. Although diamond conducts heat even better than copper, it has an exceptionally high resistance to electricity that makes it useful as an insulator in electronic applications. Diamond is also the second best semiconductor after a vacuum, and the use of artificial diamond in semiconducting devices may lead to the introduction of a new range of electronic devices.



Dickey, James S., Jr., 1988. On the Rocks. New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 175-192.

Fritsch, Emmanuel, 1998. The nature of color in diamonds. In: Harlow, ed., op. cit.; 23-47.

Harlow, George E., Vladislav S. Shatsky, & Nikolai V. Sobolev, 1998. Natural sources of diamond other than the earth’s mantle. In: Harlow, ed., op. cit.; 66-71.

Hart, op. cit.

Langerman, Charles, 2005. Natural Color Diamond Encyclopaedia.

Levinson, op. cit.; 72-104.

Pa'lyanov, Yu.N, A.G. Sokol, Yu.M. Borzdov, A.F. Khokhryakov, & N.V. Sobolev, 1999. Diamond formation from mantle carbonate fluids. Nature; 400:417-418.

Sever, Megan, 2004. Next best friend: Cultured diamond. Geotimes; 49-7: 58-59.


[i] The other forms of crystalline carbon are graphite and lonsdaleite. Carbonado is a natural aggregate of microcrystalline diamonds with graphite and non-crystalline carbon. Buckminsterfullerene (C60) is a recently-discovered synthetic molecule with a spherical structure.


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