Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The 12 Gemstones of the Bible: Second Row

In June, we began exploring the role of precious gemstones in the Bible. One of the most well-known appearances of gems in the scriptures is in Exodus, when God explains how to construct the sacred breastplate of Aaron:

“Put four rows of beautiful jewels on the judgment pouch. The first row of jewels should have a ruby, a topaz, and a beryl. The second row should have a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald. The third row should have a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row should have a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. Set all these jewels in gold. There will be twelve jewels on the judgment pouch—one stone for each of the sons of Israel. Each stone will be like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes cut into it.”
Exodus 28:17-21

Last time, we discussed the gems found on that first row of the breastplate. Now we’ll study the next three gems of the second row: turquoise, sapphire, and emerald.


The first gem listed on the second row of Aaron’s breastplate is the turquoise. Turquoise has been found in excavations of early civilizations like Sumer (3500 BC) and it was mined by Egyptians on the Sinai peninsula. This bright gemstone was used for jewelry, beads, amulets, and inlays on furnishings—including the tombs and palaces of kings.

Like most gemstones on the breastplate, there is some debate regarding whether this stone was actually turquoise or a different color/gem entirely, but most scholars agree that it was likely the same greenish-blue of our modern day turquoise. Today, this gemstone is incredibly popular in jewelry and its color is influential in clothing trends and home d├ęcor.


In most versions of the Bible, the second gemstone on the second row is called a sapphire. However, this gem was likely not the same sapphire that we know and love today.
Sapphires were not known prior to the Roman Empire (300 BC), but the historian Elder Pliny (23-69 AD) described the sapphiros of the Bible as a luminous azure color with spots of gold, but by no means transparent. This description most accurately matches the lapis lazuli and not the sapphire of today. Therefore, it is generally agreed upon that this dark blue, gold-speckled “sapphire” is actually a lapis lazuli.

The emerald is the third stone on the second row of Aaron’s breastplate. Emeralds are one variety of beryl, the green stone in the first row, so many scholars and translators often interchange the two gems.

The earliest known emerald sources were the mines near the Red Sea in Egypt (later known as Cleopatra’s Mines) in 1650 BC. Cleopatra was enamored with these gems, and she gave engraved emeralds to guests as gifts and wore them to enhance her beauty. The emeralds of biblical times are most likely the same gorgeous green gem we know of today.

Stay tuned for more.
Do you have questions or comments? Leave them below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jewelry Trends Infographic

In our last post, we talked in detail about how certain events like war and societal expectations affect art and jewelry designs. In this post, we have broken down the main points into a comprehensive infographic.


The art deco movement began in the early 1900's and exploded after the First World War. Defined by bold, geometric lines and forms, art deco inspired everything from jewelry to the Chrysler building in New York. During the Depression when resources were less abundant, art deco transitioned toward more simplistic forms and became known as art moderne. Art moderne focused on large curves and long lines that appear aerodynamic (think the Airstream trailer). The style used the basic concepts of art deco but stripped them of their ornamental nature and sharp lines.

Sweetheart jewelry first appeared during the First World War, but really found its place on the heels of the Great Depression, at the start of World War II. Sweetheart jewelry pins and pendants were worn by women to support fathers, sons and sweethearts abroad.

The toll the Second World War took on art and fashion was combated head-on when the French designer Christian Dior took the stage for the first time in 1947. Using excessive, billowing fabrics, Dior created a line of women's clothing that's now known as the "New Look". His designs complimented the growing societal expectations of traditional gender roles at that time, and the look was heavily embraced.
Over the next two decades, fashion and jewelry changed little. But all that changed in the 1960's when art and fashion again began to mirror social movements that had begun to gather momentum. These included the women's rights movements and movements for racial equality.
It was the beginning of modern art and modern people. Jewelry became bigger, more colorful and more expressive. Modern industry helped to mass-produce jewelry affordably.

During the 70's, the concepts and philosophies of modern art grew exponentially. Alongside a booming economy, and with the availability of cheap materials such as plastics, we saw art and fashion woven throughout all aspects of life by 1980.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jewelry Trends: 1900 – 1980

Jewelry trends change frequently. From fashion items to wedding rings, jewelry can vary greatly over the course of a few decades and sometimes even a few seasons. The ever-changing faces of jewelry
can be influenced by a range of outside factors, from culture and art to shifts in economics.

During the early 1900s, jewelry was mostly reserved for the rich and famous. Inspired by the sweeping Art Nouveau movement, many jewelry pieces of the time were highly elegant, paying particular attention to the relaxed, curvy lines and feminine feel. The movement produced many great works of art, interior design and more.

While Art Nouveau was all the rage in the United States, a new movement had already begun in Europe. Known as Art Deco, the trend featured bold, geometric lines and forms, bright colors and expensive materials. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 ensured Art Deco would not become a focus within the U.S. for several more years. However, once the war had ended and the economy began to boom again, the fate of the more delicate Art Nouveau styles was sealed. The Roaring 20s, defined by immense industrial prosperity, social and cultural reform, and artistic freedom, favored bold and practical over dainty and elegant.

From the Chrysler building to everyday fashion, Art Deco became so prevalent throughout all facets of American culture and society, it is the style we most commonly associate with the 1920s today.

Like all art movements, Art Deco was destined for eventual reform. In some cases, economic prosperity provides the momentum for change. In the case of Art Deco, it was economic failure. With the start of the Great Depression came a major shift in priorities, and while Art Deco was still in favor, fewer opportunities for artists, architects and fashion designers existed, and Art Deco began to take on much more simple forms. A decade later, with the start of World War II, the complex aspects of Art Deco had been mostly abandoned and simplicity and streamlining were the new norm. During this time, the focus for jewelry also shifted once again, adding the element of hope and American patriotism to the mix.

Sweetheart jewelry first became somewhat popular during the First World War, but the concept really took off from 1939 to 1945. Designed to provide emotional support and a means of connection between sons and mothers or husbands and wives, sweetheart jewelry included brooches, pins and other small fashionable items that the wearer could don to show her support. These pieces oftentimes depicted the American eagle or the flag, and were sometimes accented with a single pearl.

After the war, jewelry and clothing trends initially included a lot of thrifting, repurposing and rationing. Then, in an effort to help reclaim France's fashion status, Christian Dior launched what's commonly known as "The New Look" campaign. The style included a lot of excess fabric, billowing skirts and an emphasis on a woman's hourglass form.

Falling in line with the growing societal expectations of the time, his style was gladly embraced throughout the Western countries. It paved a beautiful way for traditional gender roles, and over the next few years, women once again resumed more "feminine" lifestyles alongside their men.

By the time DeBeers announced their "A Diamond Is Forever" campaign in 1948, America was prosperous again, and many upper-class women donned the flashy jewelry to match the mood. During this time, jewelry commonly included expensive diamonds, pearls and other gemstones. It was also during this time that platinum became a popular choice for jewelry.

Over the next decade, to match the overall mood of American culture, jewelry trends changed very little. But there was something brewing quietly beneath the surface.

The 60s were a time for revolutionary change. The post-war days had long ended, a Cold War raged and nuclear threats were made and then squelched. Men conquered the moon, social movements gathered great momentum, racial issues and voting rights became hot topics, women challenged their roles as mothers and homemakers, and non-traditional art was introduced. Bold colors and new patterns emerged everywhere, ushering a new era of fashion for the 70s and beyond.

On the heels of this revolution, contemporary art found its foothold. The styles of contemporary art were characterized by conceptual statements, non-traditional mediums and vivid colors. During the decade of contemporary art, the line between art and pop culture was often blurred, as with Andy Warhol's images of Campbell's soup. Jewelry was no different.

The 1980s gave us reusable spacecraft, IMB and MTV. These were times of prosperity, optimism and a great forward momentum that launched us into an era of affordable, accessible and mass-produced…everything.

From gold to plastics, jewelry was as differse as the evolving world around it. Whether you were Barbara Streisand or Barbara Bush; Madonna or Cher, jewelry was exactly what you wanted it to be: a fashion statement, a status symbol and a wearable accessory you didn’t want to leave home without.

And that's our breakdown of jewelry fashion from the turn of the century to the 1980s. Think we've missed something? Let us know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 12 Gemstones of the Bible: First Row

 There are several passages that connect gemstones to religion in the Bible. Precious gems and jewelry held significance in the holy text, both for personal adornment and spiritual enhancement. Today, we’ll talk about three very specific gemstones: those found on the first row of Aaron’s sacred Breastplate of Judgement. Aaron was the high priest of Israel as well as Moses’s brother, and God commanded him to create the breastplate thusly:

“Put four rows of beautiful jewels on the judgment pouch. The first row of jewels should have a ruby, a topaz, and a beryl. The second row should have a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald. The third row should have a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row should have a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. Set all these jewels in gold. There will be twelve jewels on the judgment pouch—one stone for each of the sons of Israel. Each stone will be like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes cut into it.”
Exodus 28:17-21

Although the directions seem straightforward, the identification of the twelve gemstones is actually one of the Bible’s longest unsolved mysteries. The precise nature of each stone confuses even scholars since the Bible’s translations are so inconsistent.

For instance, across different versions and translations of the Bible, the name of the fourth stone varies between beryl, emerald, turquoise, carbuncle and garnet, stones that include colors from blue to green to red.

In addition, scholars have discovered with certainty that some of the ancient names for stones actually refer to entirely different stones today. For example, the terms “sapphire” and “topaz” in the Bible do not indicate modern day sapphire and topaz—they refer to what we know as lapis lazuli and peridot.

As the story goes, the breastplate contained four rows of three gemstones. Below, we’ll examine the first row.

Ruby Gemstone

The ruby is the first gem listed on the first row of Aaron’s breastplate. Like many other gems in the Bible, its actual identity is uncertain; rubies did not come into use until the Roman Empire around 300 BC, and there have been no rubies found in excavations of early Egyptian civilization. In addition, it would be difficult to find a ruby large enough to engrave on, and even then, its hardness would require a diamond to write on it. Other red gemstones, such as sardius, red garnet, and carbuncle have been used in various translations of the Bible as well as in research by geology, theology, Greek, and Hebrew scholars. Therefore, the red color of the first stone is essentially agreed upon, although the name is widely debated.


The second gemstone on the first row is referred to as “topaz” in the Bible. However, the true identity
of this gem is likely something different. Today, we know the topaz as a popular gem occurring in various colors including light blue and pale yellow. However, topaz was not abundant in Egypt around the time Exodus was written, making it unlikely that it was included in the breastplate. When the Bible says “topaz”, it is actually referring to what we know today as the green peridot; the term “topaz” probably refers to Topazios Island, the place where peridot was mined.


Green Gemstone
Modern day beryl is of the same species as emeralds, therefore the two gems are often confused. Because emeralds were once abundant in Egypt, it’s quite possible that the biblical breastplate text is actually referring to a true beryl. Although emeralds were not actively mined until some 500 years later when Cleopatra fell in love with their beauty, they did exist in the region during the time of Aaron and Moses.
However, other research and Bible translations call this stone a variation of names, including onyx, chrysolite and chalcedony. Some claim that the beryl of the Bible was a white or cream shade, while others are certain it was a green hue.

Have another interpretation of which stones were found on the first row of Aaron’s Breastplate of Judgment? Let us know by commenting below!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Famous Masons: Harry Truman

Harry Truman was initiated into the Brotherhood at Belton Lodge No. 450 at the age of 25. Just two years later, he became Master of Belton Lodge No. 618, a newly established lodge that chose to separate itself from 450. Both lodges were located in Missouri, where Truman was born and raised.

Harry Truman spent most of his youth farming alongside his father. A member of the working class, he had little money for luxuries and did not attend college until he was nearly 40 years old. He did not complete the law degree he started and it the only president to have served in office without a higher education.
What Truman lacked in formal college training, he made up for with perseverance and conviction. He servedwith the National Guard for six years, and joined World War 1 as an officer at the ripe age of 33. Although he was older the most, he excelled at his job and soon became the commanding officer of Battery D, a field artillery battery. Truman, or "Captain Harry", led 200 soldiers at this time, from 1927 to 1918.

In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Harry Truman was elected to the Senate. It was the start of his political career. During his first term in office, he voted for nearly all of FDRs New Deal initiatives, but his own political gains remained largely unremarkable. His political successes began to climb at the start of the Second World War, when he formed The Truman Committee to investigate rumors of fraud and waste in the war effort. Truman became a well-known and well-liked figure during this time.

In 1940, Truman was elected as the 97th Grand Master of Masons in Missouri, a position he held until October of 1941.

Four years later, Truman was sworn in as vice president of the United States under FDR, who was serving an unprecedented fourth term. However, that year, FDR suddenly passed away, leaving Truman in the midst of a war he was largely unprepared for. Quoted as saying "I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me," Truman suddenly learned of the Manhattan Project which had produced the world's first nuclear weapons.

In the wake of the destruction which had already befallen Europe, Truman made the difficult decision to use nuclear bombs against Japan. August 6 and 9, 1945, Truman ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end the war as quickly as possible and avoid ongoing destruction like there had been in Europe.

Immediately following World War 2, tensions with Russia increased. It was the beginning of the Cold War, a 44-years long tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and its allies. In order to rebuild alliances, Truman passed the Truman Doctrine, which committed the United States to providing economic, military and financial aid throughout all of Western Europe.

In 1948, Truman integrated the U.S. army, which helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement. Truman's approval ratings were high.

When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, the U.S. was unprepared for intervention, but feared that not intervening would threaten the security of Europe. In an effort to divert another large-scale invasion and subsequent war, Truman sent troops to South Korea's aid, where they spent 18 months in a war with North Korea and China costing more than 30,000 American lives and spending more than $50 Billion.

In 1953, Truman wisely stepped down from the presidency. He returned to Independence, Missouri and lived a quiet and long life. On May 18, 1959, he was presented his 50-year Freemasonry award. He died the day after Christmas in 1972 at the age of 88.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Brief History of Emeralds

For those born in May, the emerald is a well-known symbol. Dark green in color and May’s birthstone, the emerald is part of a larger group called beryl, which consists of a wide variety of colored minerals that include aquamarine and morganite. The reason that beryl minerals vary so widely in color is that the imperfections in the stone are what give it its colors. Without any imperfections, beryl is a colorless crystal. These imperfections are caused by the way the beryl is formed. You can check out this previous blog post on natural gemstone formation to learn more about how crystals are formed inside the earth.

Call them imperfections, but anyone who's ever been up close and personal with an emerald knows its stunning beauty. It's not difficult to imagine how its deep green color combined with its luster became an object of admiration and fascination thousands of years ago.

Although emeralds have been revered by many throughout history, we probably associate the history
of this stone with one person more than anyone else: Elizabeth Taylor. Not really. While the actress certainly owned her fair share of expensive gemstones, including her $100 million collection of emeralds, we know she’s not the first great woman to give them a reputation.

Let’s talk about Cleopatra.
Cleopatra loved emeralds so much that she decided to take over the Greek emerald mines near the Red Sea during her reign. After claiming them as her own by naming them after herself, she decked herself in emeralds from head to toe, becoming closely associated with this gemstone.
The mines that yielded their deposits to Cleopatra had been active for decades and possibly even centuries before her arrival, but by the time they were rediscovered in the 17th century, their supply had been long exhausted.
However, you can still visit Cleopatra's Mines at the Wadi El Gamal National Park.

During the time of Cleopatra, emeralds were widely circulated throughout all of Egypt's upper classes. Commonly found in jewelry for both the living and the dead, and thought of as a symbol for protection, emeralds had their place within the elaborate tomb burials ancient Egypt is known for.

Of course, Egypt wasn't alone in its pursuit for emeralds. Just as they were coveted in Egypt for their beauty and perceived protective powers, emeralds, among other rare stones such as rubies and diamonds, played a large role in medieval status as well as healing, protection and fertility throughout Europe.

Although the belief in the magical powers of emeralds was obviously misguided, the emerald group, beryl, did actually offer one medicinal use. Because concave beryl has some magnification properties, the mineral was used as the first prototype for the modern eyeglasses in the 13th century. Historians believe that it is from "beryl” where the German word "Brillen" (eyeglasses) arose.

Emeralds have been widely sought for various reasons since humans have been able to mine. Even today, emeralds can fetch quite a considerable sum. A 1-carat cut emerald can cost upward of $1,000, sometimes ten times that depending on its source.

The world’s most expensive emeralds come from the Muzo region in northeast Colombia, where they
were popular even in ancient times. During the 16th century, when the Incas widely populated the Andes Mountains in South America,
emeralds were used jewelry and religious ceremonies, and later heavily plundered by the Spanish.

The Incas probably derived their emeralds from the Quito region in Ecuador, roughly 800 miles south of the modern day mining regions of Colombia.
Just like the Egyptians and many other civilizations around the world, the Incas revered gemstones such as emeralds very early on, and used them to craft jewelry, plates, chalices and other everyday items. Additionally, they attributed many curative powers to gemstones, from repairing ones vision to curing death. Most commonly, they used emeralds to ward off poisons.

The mention of emeralds dates back to biblical times, where they can be found in both the Old and New Testament. Alongside rubies, topaz, diamonds and onyx, emeralds are one of the most-mentioned gemstones in the Good Book. Legend has it that the emerald was one of the stones gifted to King Solomon by God himself.

Gemstones such as emeralds have a rich history that's steeped both in realism and mysticism. From their natural beauty and worth to their medicinal and protective powers, the history of emeralds can be endlessly explored.
We only touched on some aspects of emerald history today, and would love to hear what you know about this beautiful gemstone. Use the comment box below!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Famous Masons: FDR

Previously, we talked about the Mason Theodore Roosevelt. Today, we have another Roosevelt in mind. Franklin Delano, or FDR as he was commonly called, was born 24 years after his famous fifth cousin. In case you're confused about which common ancestors these two Roosevelts shared, they had the same great-great-great-great grandparents. FDR's wife Eleanor was coincidentally a fifth cousin as well, all having descended from Claes Martenszen van Rosenvelt, who was born in 1596.
Although they weren’t close in age, FDR and Theodore did spend some considerable amount of time together. Franklin, particularly, displayed a great amount of interest in and affection for his cousin from a very young age. Theodore's life was a point of comparison for him; FDR even chose pince-nez over standard glasses when the time came.


FDR couldn't have chosen a better role model. Although he lacked the physical prowess and athletic
ability of his much-admired cousin, FDR’s positive traits shone brightly early on. After practicing law for several years, FDR ran for state senate in New York and won. During this time, he was a tireless defender of farmers and a staunch supporter of the people. His desire to be connected to the public never diminished and led to his famous nationwide radio broadcasts throughout the depression and WWII. Between 1933 and 1944, he addressed the nation 30 times in what became known as the "fireside chats".

Before his political career took him to the White House, FDR was a highly active Mason who loved the camaraderie of the organization. He first joined the organization in 1911 in Holland Lodge, No. 8, New York City.
He received his 32nd degree on February 28, 1929. Following his successful climb within the Mason ranks, he joined many social clubs affiliated with Freemasonry, becoming a Shriner in Cyrus Temple in 1930 and a Prophet at Sight in the Mystic Order Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. Although these organizations do not follow Freemason degrees and are mostly fun social clubs, FDR also held a number of honorary memberships within other Masonic lodges, including the Architect Lodge, No. 519 in New York. He spoke at many Mason events and press conferences and found Freemasonry to be a wonderful opportunity to connect with other people.

In 1928, shortly before the start of the Great Depression, FDR was elected governor. As governor, he encouraged many unemployed families to start subsistence farms designed to grow enough food to sustain themselves independently. Of course, as the Depression continued, more and more American families were unable to make ends meet. To exacerbate this economic disaster, the Dust Bowl crisis soon followed, making it impossible for thousands of farmers across the Southern and Southwestern United States to survive.

When FDR took the presidential office in 1933, 13 million Americans were unemployed and impoverished. Immediately following his initiation, FDR proposed nationwide programs to alleviate this joblessness. These included allowing deficits into the budget, adding additional money into circulation and making the hoarding of gold illegal. He also repealed prohibition.
His nationwide radio addresses also began within his first 100 days in office. He knew that talking to the people directly would be the only way to win their trust. It worked: within a few days of massive bank closures all across the country, citizens began to redeposit their funds, which allowed banks to reopen.

Not everyone responded as positively to FDR's radical new changes. Businessmen were wary in regards to his experimental tactics, and the Supreme Court justices had their share of doubts.
But as expected, the people loved FDR and re-elected him in 1936. That summer, Roosevelt took a 4,000-mile train tour to investigate the Dust Bowl crisis himself. Farmers in the Dust Bowl were plagued by unyielding harvests, the result of bad farming techniques in a region not capable of sustaining crops, amid a nationwide economic depression. Although he did not have the answer to this farming crisis, he was greatly stricken by the plight of the people and promised to put major efforts toward a viable solution.

While others proposed dropping giant boulders on the plains or paving the entire area - not realizing
the extent of this land mass - FDR proposed planting trees in order to prevent soil erosion and instituted a program to pay farmers for livestock which was doomed to die. FDR's secretary of agriculture, Henry Wallace, encouraged farmers to plant fewer crops and to change their plowing techniques in order to stabilize loose soils. It was the first time anyone had ever proposed that the Dust Bowl wasn't the result of poor weather patterns.

In 1940, nearing the end of his two terms, FDR was far from satisfied with his accomplishments. With the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl behind him, Roosevelt began to acknowledge the war in Europe. Like Theodore, he wasn't a proponent of isolationism and favored military intervention. But until 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he kept with the policies set forth in the Monroe Doctrine. After the bombing, the U.S. was propelled headlong into World War II.

For several years, Germany made enormous gains toward overthrowing Europe while, unbeknownst to most of the rest of the world, imprisoning and executing millions of innocent civilians, particularly Jews. Then, during their advances toward Russia, winter struck. An unprepared German army was halted, and the allies began to make noticeable gains.
Working together with Russia to demand Germany's unconditional surrender, the war finally began to wind down in February of 1945. Amid the turn of the war tide, Roosevelt was reelected a 4th and final time.

In April, less than four weeks before Germany's surrender to the Allies and Soviets, FDR suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died. He was and continues to be the only president to serve more than two terms in presidential office, holding the position for 12 years and 39 days.