The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


Writings giving the qualities of precious and other stones, mostly composed in the Middle Ages. The rarest stones and minerals were in ancient times regarded as having special and often magical qualities. For those contained in the breastplate of the high priest see Gems. The Arabs translated from the Greek or composed several works dealing with the qualities of gems. Among them 'Ali ibn Sahl ibn Rabban al-Ṭabari, a Jew converted to Islam (flourished 850), seems to have written on minerals, and Masewaih possibly on stones, as did also Bar Hebræus. The first work written by a European Jew on the subject is that of Berechiah ha-Naḳdan, in which in a description of seventy-three minerals he described also the uses of the compass (magnet). Steinschneider suggests a Romance source for the original. Judah b. Moses Cohen translated into Spanish the Arabic lapidarium of "Abolays" (Abu al-'Aish?), and Jacob b. Reuben (13th cent.) translated "Liber Lapidum" of Bishop Marbod (d. 1123; Steinschneider, "Hebr. Uebers." pp. 238, 957, 980). A section of the encyclopedic work of Gershon b. Solomon is also devoted to stones. Simon Duran deals with the subject in his commentary on Abot. Lazarus, a Jewish physician of Mayence in 1563, perhaps the body-physician of the children of the emperor Ferdinand, composed in German a work called "Ehrenpreis," upon qualities of precious stones, still extant in a Vienna manuscript. Abraham Portaleone in his "Shilṭe ha-Gibborim," 1612, quotes from a "tarifa" of silver, gold, and gems by Meshullam of Volterra. Among modern writers mention may be made of M. Cohen, who wrote a descriptive catalogue of a collection of diamonds, Vienna, 1822, and H. Emanuel, who wrote on "Diamonds and Precious Stones," London, 1867.

  • Steinschneider, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 42-72.
G. J.
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