When the Ark of the Tabernacle was build by the Children of Israel to house the Tablets of the law (the Ten Commandments) God also instructed his servant Moses to "fashion a breastplate for making decisions - the work of skilled craftsmen".
This breastplate, made of purest gold and containing four rows of three precious stones each, was meant to represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel; each tribe noted by the particular color of the stone, which was derived from the flag or banner of each tribe.
Beginning with Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first High Priest, the Choshen Breastplate was an integral part of the High Priest's ceremonial attire when he officiated at Religious ritual ceremonies in first the Tabernacle of "Tent of Meeting" and later in both the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem. This breastplate, in which the twelve stones were set in the breastplate which was then hung on "two gold chains of pure gold, like a rope" was worn by the High Priest when he entered the most sacred of all areas in the Temple - the Holy of Holies.
The significance of this ceremonial piece inlaid with precious stones, including sapphire, emerald, ruby, and 'yahalom' (known today as diamond) was something that became known for it's mysticism and as an expression of faith throughout the ages. Though not officially attributed the Choshen breastplate, the idea of using precious and semi-precious stone note birth months may have been partially derived from this twelve stone breastplate.
Many of the stones in the 'Choshen' are attributed to have both magical and healing powers. Some of these stones include the ruby, sapphire, and "smaragd' or emerald. Due to the beneficial attributes of these stones, purchasing recreations of the ceremonial breastplate has recently become very popular. Most of these recreations are made of silver with semi-precious versions of original stones such as "Yahalom" (diamond), "Sapir" (sapphire) and "Smaragd" (sapphire or other beryl stone), due to cost and traditional reasons.
The Choshen Breastplate has been incorporated into Jewish Jewelry, mezuzah cases and home d?cor in various formats over the years. They are very popular as pendants, but are also available in the form of rings and earrings. They are significant not only as beautiful Jewish Jewelry pieces, but as a religious reminder of God's Covenant with the Children of Israel, which was important in the later beginnings of Christianity.
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