Carbuncle (gemstone)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A red and a blue garnet

A carbuncle /ˈkɑrbʌŋkəl/ is an archaic name given to any red gemstone. The name applied particularly to red garnet.[1] The word occurs in four places in most English translations of the Bible. Each use originates from the Vulgate's Latin translation of the Septuagint's Greek term Anthrax – meaning coal, in reference to the color of burning coal; in this sense, a carbuncle is usually taken to mean a gem, particularly a deep-red garnet, unfaceted and convex. In the same place in the masoretic text is the Hebrew word נופך or nofech (no'-fekh); however, the Hebrew definition is less definite and the precise color of the gems is not known.[citation needed]

The word is believed to have originated from the Latin: carbunculus, originally a small coal; diminutive of carbon-, carbo: charcoal or ember, but also a carbuncle stone, "precious stones of a red or fiery colour", usually garnets.[2]

Cultural references[edit]

Red garnet
  • Exodus 28:17 and 39:10 both refer to the carbuncle's use as the third stone in the breastplate of the Hoshen.
  • Ezekiel 28:13 refers to the carbuncle's presence in the Garden of Eden.
  • Isaiah 54:12 uses carbuncle to convey the value of the Lord's blessing [and promise to] His faithful barren woman servant: (KJV Is 54:1) "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child;") Her husband and Maker is God, "Thy Maker is thine husband." (Is 54:5 KJV)
"And I will make thy her windows of agates, and thy her gates of carbuncles, and all thy her borders of pleasant stones."
"With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus..."


  1. ^ Shipley, Robert M. Dictionary of Gems and Gemology, 5th edition, Gemological Institute of America, 1951, pp40
  2. ^ OED, "Carbuncle": 1) stone, 3) medical
  3. ^ Mulryan, John (1982). Milton and the Middle Ages. Bucknell UP. pp. 169–72. ISBN 9780838750360.