Emerald (נפֶך, nophek, of uncertain signif.; Sept. ἄνθραξ, N.T. and Apocr. σμάραγδος), a precious stone, named first in the second row on the breast-plate of the high-priest (Ex 28:18; Ex 39:11), imported to Tyre from Syria (Eze 27:16), used as a seal or signet (Ecclus. 32:6), as an ornament of clothing and bedding (Eze 28:13; Jg 10:18), and spoken of as one of the foundations of Jerusalem (Re 21:19; Tob. 13:16). The rainbow round the throne is compared to emerald in Re 4:9 (ὅμοιος ὁράσει σμαραγδίνῳ). The Sept., Josephus, and Jerus. Targum understand by it the carbuncle. This name (in Greek denoting a live coal) the ancients gave to several glowing red stones resembling live coals (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 32:20; comp. Theophrast. De Lapid. 18), particularly rubies and garnets. SEE CARBUNCLE. The most valued of the carbuncles seems, however, to have been the Oriental garnet, a transparent red stone, with a violet shade, and strong vitreous luster. It was engraved upon (Theophrast. 31), and was probably not so hard as the ruby, which, indeed, is the most beautiful and costly of the precious stones of a red color, but is so hard that it cannot easily be subjected to the graving-tool. The Hebrew nophek, in the breast-plate of the high-priest, was certainly an engraved stone; and there is no evidence that the ancients could engrave the ruby, although this has in modern times been accomplished (Rosenmuller, Biblical Mineralogy, pages 32, 33; Braunius, De Vest. Sacerdot. page 523; Bellermann, Ueber die Urim u. Thummim, page 43). SEE BERYL.
The smaragdus of the New Testament was the generic name of twelve varieties of gems, some of which were probably true emeralds, while others seem to have been rather stones of the prasius or jasper kind, and still others no more than colored crystals and spars from copper mines. The statues, etc., of emerald mentioned by several ancient authors appear to have been nothing more than rock crystals, or even colored glass (Hill on Theophrast. de Lapid. 44; Moore's Anc. Mineral. page 150). SEE GEM.
The modern emerald is a species of beryl, of a beautiful green color, which occurs in primitive crystals, and is much valued for ornamental jewelry. The finest are obtained from Peru. The mines from which the ancients obtained emeralds are said to have existed in Egypt, near Mount Zabarah. (See the Penny Cyclopadia, s.v. Beryl.)