Elat stoneStar sapphireEmerald

  • Issue: December 1981
  • Designer: A. Ganor

Elat stone

Copper was one of the first metals mined by Man and utilised in the production of tools - "And ZiIIah, she also bore Tubalcain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron..." (Genesis 4.22). In the western region of the Land of Israel - both around Timna-Elat and on the eastern bank of the Jordan, south of the Dead Sea - remains have been found which serve witness to the mining of copper in ancient times. The beginnings of copper mining and work in the Timna area have been dated to the Chalcolithic Age and we know that it was continued by the Egyptians and the Romans.

Since 1958 copper has been produced from a geological level (cambrium) in which blue and green minerals appear in the sandstone, clay, and rocks, both as concentrates and as a filling in cracks. During the mining of the copper ore, the concentrates are separated from the copper and after polishing, produce gemstones which are sold under the trade name of "Elat Stones". The name derives from Timna's proximity to Elat and the fact that the lapidaries are situated in this southern vacation town.

The variety of minerals found in association at Timna, their degree of crystalisation and their crystal forms account for the unequal hardness of polished Elat stones, their varying colours - blue, green and emerald - and their lack of lustre and polish.

The production of Elat stones at Timna is a by-product of the mining of copper ore and is of secondary importance. Copper mining ceased at Timna in 1976 as a result of the drop in copper prices on the world market and was resumed on a limited scale in 1980 with the intention of producing copper salts and exploiting the manganese that is found in the ore together with the copper.

While Elat stones will continue to be a secondary by - product as far as Timna is. concerned, they will be of increasing importance to Israel's gemstone and jewellery industries.

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Star sapphire

There are no gems more fascinating, more mysterious, more desirable than Star Sapphires or Star Rubies. From the Orient, centuries ago, came Star Sapphire and Star Rubies so rare as to be almost priceless, to become the gems of royalty, the gifts of kings. The Star Ruby, with its fiery red colour, was believed to be the gift of love and passion, while the majestic blue-hued sapphire, symbol of devotion, brought the wearer wisdom and good health.

Star Sapphires and Star Rubies, when exposed to direct light, radiate a beautiful, mysterious, six-rayed star; this star phenomenon is called "asterism". Star gems, like the more common transparent ruby and sapphire, are "corundum" (pure aluminium oxide with a natural colourant). The beauty and magic of these beautiful gems has been recreated in the stars of Kibbutz Nachshon. These stars, a miracle of Nature and Man, are produced from a tiny Sapphire seed and powders heated to very high temperatures, then cooled to develop the needle-like inclusions that mirror the star from within.

Created by a process much like Nature's own, each stone has its own identity with the same chemical, physical and optical properties inherent in the natural stones. They are made in 12 different colours, each representing a colour of a month. The carrot-like crystals (called boules) are then cut and shaped into caboshons. They have a nine (9) hardness - only a diamond is harder.

The manufacturing process was developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, based on machinery and know-how from the USA, and today Kibbutz Nachshon is one of the world's leading manufacturers of these gems.

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The emerald

The emerald is a silicate of aluminium and berilium with chromium which imparts the green colour. It is a precious stone grouped with the diamond, ruby and sapphire.

The emerald is traditionally the birthstone of the month of May. The most famous ancient emerald mines, known today as Cleopatra's Mines, were in Upper Egypt, east of Aswan and near the Red Sea. Other important sources of emeralds are Columbia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil and the Ural mountains.

In Israel a well-developed high-quality cutting and polishing industry handles a large portion of the world market in emeralds, specializing in stones of African origin.

Precious stones are mentioned in the Bible in connection with the breastplate of the High Priest (Exodus 28. 17-20) and Ezekiel 28.13). Throughout history the twelve stones of the breastplate, which symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel, were associated with different stones in accordance with the different translation of the Hebrew names. According to some translators (Onkolus, Yerushalmi), the fourth stone "nophech" is the emerald and thisviewwas accepted by the translator of the King James version of the Bible. Other translations (The Septuagint, Josephus Flavius and several English, French and German versions) prefer the third stone - "bareket" - because of its similarity to the Sanscrit "marakat". "Nophech" is associated with the tribe of Judah whereas "bareket" belongs to the tribe of Levi.

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Precious stones