From time to time visitors come to our website looking for a gemstone known as chrysolite. We're not sure what they're looking for, since there is actually no mineral with the name chrysolite.
However, the word chrysolite has a long history in the gemstone world. The name itself means "gold stone," and over time it has been used to refer to different gemstones, including chrysoberyl, peridot/olivine and topaz. The term Oriental chrysolite was used to refer to yellowish-green sapphire and Ceylon chrysolite was used to refer to olive-green tourmaline. There were also terms like Saxon chrysolite (greenish-yellow topaz), Cape chrysolite (prehnite) and false chrysolite (moldavite).
Chrysolite is mentioned several times in the Bible, in the list of gemstones set in the breastplate of Aaron (Book of Exodus), as well as in the list of foundation stones for the New Jerusalem (in Revelation). Many of the gemstone references in the Bible are somewhat obscure since many gemstone names were used to refer to stones of a particular color rather than specific minerals.
Many scholars believe that chrysolite was most likely used to refer to the mineral olivine, known in gemology as peridot. Olivine is not itself an official mineral, but is composed of two minerals; fayalite and forsterite. Historically, the most important deposit of peridot was on the volcanic island of Zabargad (St. John) in the Red Sea, east of Aswan, Egypt. This deposit was mined for over 3500 years and was very well known in the ancient world. It has been speculated that many of Cleopatra's famous emeralds were, in fact, peridot gemstones from Zabargad.
Modern peridot sources are Burma, Pakistan, China, Vietnam and the United States. The finest quality peridot has traditionally come from Mogok in Burma, though the Pakistani peridot is now highly regarded as well. The USA was for many years the largest producer of peridot, from major deposits in Arizona. Curiously, peridot has also been found in a meteorite that fell in Siberia in 1749.
- First Published: March-30-2010
- Last Updated: August-17-2017
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