The Magic and Science of Jewels: Chapter IV

The Magic and Science of Jewels by Isidore Kozminsky The Breastplate of Judgment

The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones by Isidore Kozminsky

“The Magic and Science of Jewels” by Isidore Kozminsky is a captivating exploration of the mystical properties and profound symbolism associated with gemstones. Published in 1922, this book bridges the realms of magic and science, shedding light on how these precious stones have fascinated and influenced humanity for centuries.

Kozminsky’s work delves into the metaphysical aspects of gemstones, exploring their healing powers, astrological connections, and spiritual significance. Each gemstone is presented as a unique repository of energy, offering readers a deeper understanding of their potential impact on the human experience.

The book also explores the esoteric and symbolic meanings of gemstones, unveiling the hidden wisdom embedded in their colors, shapes, and historical contexts. “The Magic and Science of Jewels” serves as a timeless resource for those seeking to harness the mystical qualities of gemstones and integrate them into their spiritual and practical lives, making it a valuable addition to the literature on gemstone lore and metaphysical studies.

Chapter IV: The Breastplate of Judgment

In Chapter IV, ‘The Breastplate of Judgment’, Kozminsky examines the HOSHEN-HA-MISHPAT or Breastplate of Judgment, a sacred item worn by the High Priest in biblical times. This chapter describes the breastplate’s construction and the significance of its twelve stones, each representing a tribe of Israel and a sign of the Zodiac. It delves into interpretations of the Urim and Thummim, mysterious objects associated with the breastplate used for divination. The chapter also explores historical and cultural parallels, emphasizing the breastplate’s symbolic importance in conveying divine guidance and truth.

The Magic and Science of Jewels by Isidore Kozminsky Chapter 4

The future things and those which are to happen, let them foretell unto thee.

Isaiah XLIV. 7.

Attached to the Ephod was the famous HOSHEN-HA-MISHPAT or Breastplate of Judgment which was of “cunning work,” fashioned like the Ephod “of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen.” It was a square pouch when doubled, a span in length and a span in breadth. Josephus writes that there were “twelve stones upon the Breastplate, extraordinary in largeness and beauty: and they were an ornament not to be purchased by men because of their immense value. The names of all those sons of Jacob were engraven in these stones, whom we esteem the heads of our tribes, each in the order according to which they were born.”

We are told in the 28th chapter of the Book of Exodus that the Urim and Thummim were put into the Breastplate. Dummelow believes that these were two jewels or images engraved with distinctive characters employed in casting lots. Josephus and the Septuagint imply that the gems on the Breastplate constituted the Urim and Thummim. Gensenius says that the Urim and Thummim were two little images which were placed between the folds of the Breastplate.

Ceramic Replica of the Priestly Breastplate at the Sephardic synagogue in Ramat Gan by Dr. Avishai Teicher - wikimedia - CCBY
Ceramic Replica of the Priestly Breastplate at the Sephardic synagogue in Ramat Gan by Dr. Avishai Teicher (CCBY)

Dr. Chambers indicates the Urim and Thummim as a mysterious contrivance consisting either of the four rows of precious stones bearing the tribal signets, or of two images. It is pointed out that the images of Isis and Osiris, worked in precious stones, hung on the breast of the Egyptian High Priest to symbolize truth and justice. The Urim and Thummim may be identical with the Babylonian “Tablets of Destiny” which were the instruments by which the seers of Babylon conveyed the “urtu” or answer of the gods to the people.

In Babylon the “Tablets of Destiny” were only effective when on the breast of the god, while amongst the children of Israel the Urim and Thummim were only potent when on the breast of the High Priest. Josephus says that the answer of the Urim and Thummim was revealed by rays of light, and the Talmudic account is in harmony with this statement.

It was necessary for accuracy that the oracle should only be approached by one on whom the Shekinah or Radiance rested: one filled with the splendour of inspiration, naturally gifted in the art of prophecy, and fitted by the beauty of his thoughts and his life to draw unto himself the divine Shekinah: he must be “covered with the robe of virtue as the bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

The Rabbis identified Urim and Thummim as the “grand and sacred name of God,” Urim indicating “Those whose words communicate light” and Thummin, “Those whose words are realised,” while the Septuagint renders them as “Revelation” and “Truth.” The generally accepted meaning of Urim and Thummim is “Lights and Perfections.”

The connection of the twelve zodiacal signs with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve stones of the Breastplate is remarked by Josephus, and the Targum upon Canticles also links them together. Wilson in “Lights and Shadows of Northern Mythology” draws attention to the life-sized white marble figure of Aaron robed, wearing the Breastplate showing a sign of the Zodiac sculptured on each of the twelve precious stones, which figure is placed on the right side of the High Altar in S. Pietro, Piazza Bianchi, Genoa.

The Matsebah of Babylon are black pillar stones on which in three elemental divisions are sculptured the twelve zodiacal signs by which the twelve Assyrian gods are symbolized, and the twelve lions on either side of the steps leading to Solomon’s throne represent the Sun in its progress through the signs of Heaven. Josephus mentions that he had seen the remains of an ancient pillar of stone on which Seth, foreseeing the great Flood, had engraved the elements of Astrology which “Adam had received from the Creator.”

“Moses was willing,” writes Josephus, “that the power of the Breastplate should be known not only to the Hebrews but to all the world. When God was present the stone on the right shoulder of the High Priest (the stone symbolizing the soul’s descent) shone with a brilliancy not natural to it. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy as to despise Divine Revelation.

Yet will I mention what is more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand by those twelve stones which the High Priest bare on his breast and which were inserted into his Breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle: for so great a splendour shone forth from them before the army began to march that all the people were sensible of God’s being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks who had a veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this called the Breastplate ‘the Oracle.’ Now this Breastplate left off shining 200 years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgression of the laws.”

Father Kircher in “Oedipus Egyptianus” gives an engraving of the Tabernacle with the Sun, Moon, and Planets in the centre and Ephraim with a bull, Menasses with two infants, Benjamin with a Centaur, Dan with a scorpion, Gad with a ram, Assehr with scales, Simeon with fishes, Reuben with a water-bearer, Zebulon with a fish-goat, Issachar with a lobster, and Judah with a lion.


The standards of the twelve tribes were given in the middle ages as follows:

IssacharSun or Full Moon
ReubenMan’s Head or Bust
JudahA Lion
GadAn Army of Men
ZebulonA Ship
SimeonA Citadel
ManassahA Unicorn
DanAn Eagle
BenjaminA Horse
AssherA Tree

The Rabbinical writers generally favour the following tribal order: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Assher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benjamin. Tobias ben Eliezer quotes an old Baraita which said that Zebulon was followed by Dan. Marbodus places them as follows:

1.Reubenplaced 3rd of the 3rd row in the Breastplate
2.Simeonplaced 3rd of the 2nd row in the Breastplate
3.Leviplaced 3rd of the 1st row in the Breastplate
4.Judahplaced 2nd of the 1st row in the Breastplate
5.Zebulonplaced 1st of the 1st row in the Breastplate
6.Issacharplaced 1st of the 2nd row in the Breastplate
7.Danplaced 1st of the 3rd row in the Breastplate
8.Gadplaced 1st of the 4th row in the Breastplate
9.Assherplaced 2nd of the 2nd row in the Breastplate
10.Napthaliplaced 2nd of the 3rd row in the Breastplate
11.Josephplaced 2nd of the 4th row in the Breastplate
12.Benjaminplaced 3rd of the 4th row in the Breastplate

Another old list gives the order as follows: Reuben, Dan, Judah, Levi, Issachar, Zebulon, Assher, Napthali, Gad, Simeon, Joseph, Benjamin.

Swedenborg groups the tribes thus: Judah, Reuben and Gad; Assher, Napthali and Manasseh; Simeon, Levi and Issachar; Zebulon, Joseph and Benjamin.


It is unnecessary to quote further lists as I believe that the one I am now producing will be sufficient to redeem the confusion. It is in complete harmony with the order of Jacob’s blessings (Genesis XLIX) and the signs of the Zodiac. It will be noted that Taurus with the tribe of Reuben leads the Zodiac, and it is related that under this sign the human race came to earth. On ancient zodiacs the Bull as a solar conception is shown wending his way through the stars.

1.Reubenthe DefilerTaurus
2.Simeon and Levithe SlayersGemini
3.Levi“Held to” (i. e., to the altar)Cancer
4.Judahthe Lion’s WhelpLeo
5.Zebulonthe HavenVirgo (Argo, the ship, is in the constellation Virgo).
6.Issacharthe BenderLibra
7.Danthe AdderScorpio
8.Gadthe VictorSagittarius
9.Assherthe ProducerCapricorn
10.Naphthalithe ComforterAquarius
11.Josephthe RedeemerPisces
12.Benjaminthe DevourerAries

The sign Cancer is that of the tribe of Levi as servants and guardians of the Tabernacle, the name indicating “held to,” i. e., held to the altar.

Crystal on rock - adobe stock photo - cco

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In this timeless masterpiece, Isodore Kozminsky, a renowned author in the field of Jewish occultism and esotericism, reveals the hidden secrets of gemstones, semi-precious stones, and ordinary stones. Kozminsky skillfully navigates the philosophy of sympathy and antipathy found throughout nature, unveiling the interconnectedness of stone to stone, and person to person. As a member of a family of jewelers and associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Kozminsky was perfectly positioned to synthesize scientific data, ancient folklore, and the occult and beneficial use of stones.

Unlike more modern stone guides that limit themselves to the psychic and physical aspects of lithotherapy, this book provides a much more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the subject. Special emphasis is placed on the connection between the various gemstones and semi-precious stones discussed and the signs of the zodiac. The author offers a profound philosophy of lucky stones, planetary gems, and the mystical “stones of power,” which form an integral part of talismanic magic. Unique to this book are the inclusion of magical sigils and invocation formulas, providing readers with the means to establish contact with the stone spirits, presented as an embedded grimoire.

The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones was previously available only as a rare antiquarian find. VAMzzz Publishing presents a new, carefully revised edition, complete with additional information about the author.

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