Choshen Jewelry Guide
Jewelry is a common gift to give for a multitude of Jewish occasions. Jewelry can be given for non-religious occasions such as anniversaries or birthdays to relatives and spouses. That being said, there is a wide variety of Jewish jewelry out there to give for Jewish occasions. For example, jewelry serves as a thoughtful gift for a girl on her Bat Mitzvah in order to welcome her into adulthood. Jewelry is also commonly given to a bride before her wedding.
Jewish jewelry can be defined by the artist it is made by or the style of the work itself. Jewelry can come in an Israeli style or feature Jewish symbols. These include a Magen David symbol, Hebrew text, Kabbalah style, and Choshen style.
What is Choshen Jewelry?
Choshen jewelry is defined as Jewish jewelry that is designed in a particular Choshen style. Choshen, sometimes spelled Hoshen, refers to the breastplate originally worn by Aaron the High Priest and later by all High Priests during the Temple era. The breastplate was placed over the heart to remind the Priest of the sons of Israel and the community he represents during his duties. The breastplate was worn while performing holy tasks in the Temple and had certain specifications. One specification was that the breastplate be adorned with twelve precious stones mentioned in the book of Exodus representing the twelve Jewish tribes. The stones are ruby, garnet, citrine, blue topaz, topaz, peridot, sapphire, emerald, onyx, amethyst, diamond, and aquamarine.
Choshen style jewelry is designed with the same stone pattern that is found on the breastplates worn by High Priests. While not all Choshen jewelry will be created with precious stones, the jewelry will be adorned by a similar pattern with two columns of six.
Choshen jewelry can come in many materials, as the jewelry can come in the form of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and amulets alike. The chosen breastplate pattern may be featured on a metal cuff bracelet or on a rectangular shaped pendant on a silver chain. This type of jewelry can come in pewter and metal materials, or more sophisticated materials such as 925 Sterling Silver and gold. The most expensive type of Choshen jewelry will have all twelve precious stones on its surface. Other pieces have stones created in the form of rhinestones or studs. While the original breastplates had engravings of the names of the twelve tribes, modern Jewish jewelry do not.
The Chosen stone pattern may be placed on symbols such as a Hamsa, Magen David, or Menorah. The Hamsa symbol is a five finger open hand symbol with Arabic origins. Popular in Middle Eastern cultures, the Hamsa has come to represent protection from evil. The Choshen design is often featured in the center of the open palm Hamsa. The Magen David symbol is the Jewish star that has come to represent the Jewish community. The Magen David is currently displayed in the center of the Israeli flag. The Menorah is a nine branched candelabra with one taller branch for lighting candles during the holiday of Hanukkah. Menorahs are commonly features as pendants on necklaces with the Choshen design in its center.