The Peridot gemstone gets its name from the French word peritot, which means gold. This is because of the possible variations of color of this mineral towards gold. A peridot is commonly known as the birthstone for those who are born in the month of August. Married couples also celebrate the sixteenth year of marriage with the Peridot gemstone. The history of mining the peridot was recorded as early as 1500BC on ancient papyri. Zabargat or St John's Island located in the Egyptian Red Sea, previously known as Topazo Island to the Ancient world, was the main source of this gemstone.
The inhabitants of these islands were forced to mine and collect Peridot gemstones for the Pharaohs Treasury. They were used in carved talismans and legends tell of watchers who had been ordered to jealously guard the islands and who took the lives of all who trespassed there. It is said that because of their incredible radiance, these gemstones were mined at night and in the day time. Miners would easily locate them at night and then mark the area for mining the following day. There is a famous Peridot gemstone which is set in the shrine of the Three Holy Kings, located in a cathedral in Cologne. This stone was only identified as a peridot during the last century while everyone believed it was an emerald for centuries.
Several jewelry historians also speculate, rather convincingly that some of the emeralds that Cleopatra was known for wearing were in fact peridots from Egypt and not emeralds at all. The emerald color green is hardly ever found in peridots that are less than ten carats. Peridot stones of emerald color can only be located in Egypt or Burma from which production of these has recently, virtually discontinued. The Ancient Egyptians called the peridot "the gem of the sun".
The island of Zabargad is situated in the Red Sea a distance of about thirty five miles from the Egyptian coastal port of Berenica. Ancient navigators often found it difficult to locate because of the fog that surrounded it. This location was lost and became a mystery for several centuries until it was once again discovered in 1905. The Kedhive of Egypt was believed to have the monopoly on the mines of Zabargad during the 19th century when these mines were said to have produced Peridot worth millions of dollars. Today this gemstone is known as the National gem of Egypt.
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