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Three jewels
Clean redrawn of J.R.R. Tolkien's heraldic device for the Silmarils
Other namesThe Great Jewels, The Three Jewels, Jewels of Fëanor
LocationFormenos, Angband, Tol Galen, Doriath, Mouths of Sirion
OwnerFëanor, Morgoth, Thingol, Beren, Lúthien, Dior, Elwing, Eärendil, Eönwë, Maedhros, Maglor
AppearanceHard, bright crystals containing the light of the Two Trees
Tirion, between Y.T. 1449 & 1450
GalleryImages of Silmarils

...The thrice-enchanted globes of light
that shine until the final night

The Silmarils (Quenya Silmarilli)[1][2] were three gems of immense beauty, created by Fëanor in Aman during the Years of the Trees of the First Age. Their theft by Morgoth was the trigger for the following War of the Jewels narrated in the Quenta Silmarillion ("The History of the Silmarils").


The shells of the gems were crafted of the hard crystalline substance silima, which Fëanor had devised, and they were named after it. In their hearts burned some of the Light of Valinor from the Two Trees. Their exact nature and the manner of their making were known only to Fëanor, and none other succeeded in making gems of comparable greatness and beauty. Varda hallowed the Silmarils so that no mortal or evil hands could touch them without being burned and withered.[3]

But the Silmarils were tainted by arrogance and lust by anyone who desired them, starting with Morgoth, then Fëanor. As the Oath of Fëanor proclaimed, it resulted in evil ends, such as the Fall of the Noldor, the Doom of Mandos, Kinslayings and the destruction of Doriath.


The Silmarils were created by Fëanor in Valinor after the unchaining of Melkor. According to a legend, Fëanor conceived the idea of capturing the light of the trees from the hair of Galadriel, which shone with gold and silver.[4] Fëanor gave his heart to their making and could not duplicate them.

Fëanor wore the jewels at festivals and the Eldar admired them. Melkor coveted their light and soon, corrupted by his lies, Fëanor started to lock them away, and became greedy for them. After Fëanor was exiled to Formenos, the Silmarils were stored in a chamber of iron.[3]

Together with Ungoliant, Melkor destroyed the Two Trees. The Silmarils now contained all that remained of the light of the Trees. The Valar entreated Fëanor to give up the Silmarils so they could restore the Trees, but he refused.

Theft by Morgoth

Throne of Morgoth by Felix Sotomayor

Then news arrived that Melkor had killed Fëanor's father Finwë, the King of the Noldor, and stolen all the gems. He and Ungoliant fled to the northlands of Middle-earth, where his ancient fortresses were, but they quarrelled as the spider had devoured all the gems, and wanted also the Silmarils, something that Melkor, now named Morgoth by Fëanor, would not allow, even though their holy light burnt his hands and ceaselessly tormented him. The Silmarils were set on his Iron Crown.

Fëanor was furious at Morgoth and at the Valar, who he believed desired to take the gems for their own purposes. Then he and his Sons swore a terrible Oath: that they would not rest until the Silmarils were recovered, slaying anyone who stood in their way. Fëanor led the Noldor back to Middle-earth and a centenary war began against Morgoth in Beleriand, called the War of the Jewels. But their battles led to no end of grief for the Elves and eventually for the Men of Middle-earth.

The Sindarin King Thingol learned of the Silmarils from the Noldor. Wishing to dispose of Beren, he gave him the apparently impossible task to fetch one for the hand of his daughter, Lúthien. Impelled by his love for her, Beren reached Angband through great peril and loss and, with the aid of Lúthien, recovered one from Morgoth's crown, only for the gem to be swallowed by the werewolf Carcharoth. The hallowed light tormented the evil Carcharoth, until he was slain in Neldoreth. The Silmaril thus was delivered to Thingol, fulfilling Beren's Quest.[5]

Earendil by Jef Murray
Maedhros Casts Himself into a Chasm by Ted Nasmith
Maglor Casts a Silmaril into the Sea by Ted Nasmith

Instead of giving it to the Sons of Fëanor, Thingol had the Dwarves of Nogrod store the gem inside the dwarven pendant Nauglamír. However, the dwarves also coveted the jewel and killed Thingol. Doriath was ruined by the Dwarves. The Nauglamír was recovered from the dwarves by Beren at the Battle of Sarn Athrad, and he gave it to Lúthien, who wore it until her second death, becoming the fairest vision east of the Sea. It was said that their second death came early, because their combined beauty was too bright for mortal lands.

Doom of the Noldor

After Lúthien's death, a Lord of the Laiquendi brought the Nauglamír back to Doriath, and her son Dior wore it. News of the Silmaril came to the sons of Fëanor, who, stirred by their Oath, came to Doriath and resolved to battle, during which three of the brothers were killed, and Menegroth was ruined. However, the Nauglamír was rescued by Elwing and Sindarin survivors who fled to the Havens of Sirion.[6]

Years passed and the Silmaril came to the hands of Elwing's husband, Eärendil, the lord of the Havens of Sirion. His people considered the Silmaril to be a blessing for their houses and ships. But the remaining sons of Fëanor still pursued the Silmaril, and when they learned where Elwing had escaped to, they sent word demanding the jewel while Eärendil was away on one of his voyages. But the people of Sirion refused to surrender the Silmaril, considering it a rightful prize of Beren and Lúthien. Therefore the sons of Fëanor resolved to make another assault, but Elwing escaped with the Silmaril once again, casting herself into the sea and reaching Eärendil with the help of Ulmo. The light of the Silmaril guided Eärendil through the Shadowy Seas and he found his way to Valinor. The Valar then set this Silmaril as a star in the sky, bound on Eärendil's brow as he sailed through the sky in his hallowed ship.[7]

The other two Silmarils had remained in Morgoth's hands, until they were taken from him at the end of the War of Wrath and given to Eönwë for safekeeping. However, soon afterwards, they were stolen by Fëanor's two surviving sons, Maedhros and Maglor. Because of the crimes they had committed in order to reclaim the jewels, they were now unworthy of them, and the Silmarils burned their hands in refusal of their rights of possession. In agony, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit, and Maglor threw his into the sea.[7]

Thus the Silmarils remain in all three elements of Arda - in the sky, soil and water - fulfilling the prophecy made by Mandos shortly after the making of the gems.[3]

It is said that Fëanor will return for the Dagor Dagorath. Following Melkor's final return and ultimate defeat, the World will be changed and the Silmarils recovered. Fëanor will break his jewels and with their fire Yavanna will revive the Two Trees. The Pelóri Mountains will be flattened and the light of the Two Trees will fill Arda again in a new age of Eternal Bliss.[8]


The word is said to contain silima, the substance they were made from, as well as an element from brightness, ril.[1]

They mean "radiance of pure light".[9] It might contain the ending rillë ("brilliance").[10]

The proper Quenya plural form is Silmarilli, "Silmarils" being an Anglicised name.

Other names

Another early Quenya name for a Silmaril was Ilumírë.[11]

In The Etymologies appears the Noldorin name Silevril as the cognate for Quenya Silmaril.[12] Tolkien appears to have retained the Noldorin form in Sindarin, since the name Pennas Silevril (apparently the Sindarin translation of Quenya Quenta Silmarillion)[13] is used in later manuscripts.[14]

Other Noldorin names from The Etymologies are Golodhvir meaning "Noldo-jewel(s)" (cf. Golodh meaning "Noldo") and Mirion pl. Miruin meaning "Great jewel/s".[15]

In Aelfwine's Old English translations, the name Silmaril is rendered phonetically as Sigelmaerels. As noted by Christopher Tolkien it is composed of OE sigel ("sun, jewel") maerels ("rope"), actually referring to the Nauglamir.[16]

Other versions of the legendarium

The Book of Lost Tales

The Silmarils appear since the earliest version of the legendarium in The Book of Lost Tales. Although they do not have the same importance as in later versions, their making is described there in more detail:

Then arose Fëanor of the Noldoli and fared to the Solosimpi and begged a great pearl, and he got moreover an urn full of the most luminous phosphor-light gathered of foam in dark places, and with these he came home, and he took all the other gems and did gather their glint by the light of white lamps and silver candles, and he took the sheen of pearls and the faint half-colours of opals, and he [?bathed] them in phosphorescence and the radiant dew of Silpion, and but a single tiny drop of the light of Laurelin did he let fall therein, and giving all those magic lights a body to dwell in of such perfect glass as he alone could make nor even Aulë compass, so great was the slender dexterity of the fingers of Fëanor, he made a jewel — and it shone of its own [?wizardous] radiance in the uttermost dark; and he set it therein and sat a very long while and gazed at its beauty.

Fëanor made two more jewels, and called them Silmarilli, or Silubrilthin in the language of the Noldoli. Of all the many jewels made by the Noldoli, and of all the pearls of the Solosimpi, the jewels of Fëanor were held as the most beautiful.[17] Their relation with pearls can be seen in their etymology: Qenya Silmaril came from Sil ("Moon") + marilla ("pearl"); while Gnomish Silubrilt came from Sil + brithla ("pearl").[18]

After the Noldoli were banished from Kôr to Sirnúmen, the Silmarils were put in an ivory casket, and guarded among the many jewels. Later Melko stole all the treasures of the Noldoli, including the Silmarils.[19]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", entry sil-
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Númenor"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", p. 230
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Doriath"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Two. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: The Last Chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion", p. 247
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 148, (dated 7 August 1954), p. 148
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part Two" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 46, July 2004, p. 11
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "IL"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entries "RIL", "SIL"
  13. Helge Fauskanger, Sindarin, the Noble Tongue: Sindarin Plural Patterns at Ardalambion (accessed 10 July 2011)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (II) The Second Phase: The Valaquenta", p. 200
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "MIR"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names", p. 209
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "V. The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr", p. 128
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I, entries "Sil", "Silmarilli"
  19. {{LT1|VI, pp. 114-145