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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Peridot

Photo courtesy of Paul Merkel
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Catalog Number NMNH G10517-00
Locality Pakistan
Weight 28.45 ct

Gift of Mr. Paul Merkel in 2006.

More than 3,000 years ago Egyptians fashioned beads from golden green crystals mined on an island in the Red Sea. Known to the Greeks and Romans as Topazios, this island off the coast of Egypt was one of the most important sources for fine peridot, the gem variety of the mineral forsterite. Originally called topazion, after the island, this gem was renamed peridot in the 18th century. The island is known today as Zabargad, the Arabic name for peridot. Other sources of peridot include Burma, the United States, Norway, Brazil, China, Australia, and Pakistan. During the Crusades, an abundance of peridot was brought back to Europe and was commonly used to adorn religious objects. Peridot became popular in jewelry in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century. It is most prized when it is an intense dark green color without undertones of yellow or brown, as seen here in this 28.45ct fancy round brilliant cut gemstone from Pakistan. The peridot was faceted by Paul Merkel and generously gifted to the Collection in 2006.

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