The Hoshen in Judaica Jewelry
The Hoshen in Judaica jewelry is inspired by Israel's rich historical past. Based on the linen 'breastplate' that was worn by Israel's High Priests in biblical times, the design is seen as a powerful symbol of hope and optimism. Whether worn in the form of a pendant, earrings, or a broach, it is an attractive piece of jewelry that represents Israel's culture and religion.
The Hoshen is sometimes known of as "Aaron's Breastplate", or "the Breastplate of Judgment". Made for Israel's first High Priest Aaron, it was part of the original ceremonial vestments that were passed down to every High Priest succeeding him. When officiating at ceremonies in the Temple, the reigning High Priest would wear it on his chest, over an apron-like garment called the 'ephod'. Both the ephod and the breastplate were made from the same richly embroidered, fine twined linen.
The breastplate itself was made of a single piece of linen that was folded double and measured a span in length and breadth. On its front were twelve stones in filigree settings, set in four rows of three. Each stone was engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The breastplate was held in place by gold braid chains attached to settings on the ephod's shoulders at the top, and by a blue cord at the bottom. The Urim and Thummim, used by the High Priest when consulting the Divine, were carried inside of it.
Because Aaron was instructed to wear the Urim and Thummim over his heart when entering the presence of the Almighty, Aaron's Breastplate is sometimes seen as having a mystical significance. In the Talmud, its wearing is seen as atoning for Israel's inadvertent sins.
Today, jewelry inspired by Aaron's Breastplate is made in the form of a square-shaped base that is set with twelve gemstones. Faithful to the original breastplate's design, the gemstones are arranged in four rows of three each. Since no one is completely certain what the original gemstones were, the stones used can vary according to the biblical interpretation favored by the jeweler. One possible combination is that of sardin, chrysolite, green feldspar, purple garnet, lapis lazuli, jade, turquoise, agate, jasper, topaz, cornelian, green jasper.
The hoshen in Judaica jewelry is much more than just a fashion accessory. It's twelve stones represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and serve as a enduring expression of a faith, culture heritage and history that spans several millennium.