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Some History about Peridot from Zabarad

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Diodorus Siculus (90-21 B. C.) has written that the island of Zabarad, located in the Red Sea and at his time known as the Island of Death, was closely guarded by warriors from Egypt, the country that controlled it then. Fortune seekers who dared to approach the shores of this small, arid island were either killed or were threatened with death.

You might wonder - understandably so - why the mighty Egyptian nation would want to control this 4.5 square kilometer patch of brown, known now as Zabarad. And, further, just why would people risk life and limb to sneak ashore? The answer becomes clear when you realize that the present name of the island comes from the Arabic "zabarga", which translates to "peridot."

The fact of the matter is that fine quality peridot was the only thing of value that Zabarad has ever produced. Especially valuable were the quality and unusually large sizes of peridot rough crystals found from Peridot Hill, Zabarad's highest point, 235 meters above sea level.

The mining of peridot on Zabarad has ceased since World War II, so I am given to understand. Perhaps there are still fine peridot crystals to be found on the island.  We will know someday only when world events allow.

In the meantime you can view an outstanding example of a peridot crystal from Peridot Hill, Zabarad in the Gebruder Bank Private Collection held by the Gemological Institute of America at its headquarters in Carlsbad, California.  This fine green crystal weighs 346.45 carats.

As to faceted peridot gemstones, the most magnificent examples have found their way into the cathedrals of Europe, probably by looting or trade during the time of the Crusades. Most of these peridots are called "emeralds." The most notable of these gems can be found in the Treasury of the Three Magi in the Great Dom at Cologne.

Return to "Peridot, August's Birthstone."

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