Peridot: Birthstone of August

Peridot is a gem-quality transparent variety of olivine. The color of olivine ranges from olive to lime green, some with a brownish tinge.

On a small desolate island in the Red Sea– named Zabargad, which means “olivine” in Arabic – peridot has been mined since ancient times. Nothing grows, no fresh water, and it is scorching hot all year except for winter. In some locations, fissures are lined with gem crystals and beaches have a greenish hue due to tiny crystals.

Also found inBurma,Norway,Brazil,China,Kenya,Sri Lanka,Australia, andMexico. TheU.S.has small stones mined inArizona.

Among the oldest known gemstones, the “topaz” on the breastplate of Aaron, High Priest of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, was believed to actually be peridot. Ancient Egyptians, around 1580 B.C. to 1350 B.C., created beads from peridot. For Greek and Romans, peridot was in popular use as intaglios, rings, inlays, and pendants.

A prized gem late in theOttoman Empire(1300-1918). Turkish Sultans collected the world’s largest collection. The gold throne inIstanbul’s Topkapi museum is decorated with 955 peridot cabochons, and also used on turbans and boxes. The largest stone is believed to be a 310 carat gem that is in the Smithsonian. A fine 192 carat stone is part of the Russian crown jewels in the Kremlin.

 Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness.

He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser, from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Prime Time Live” several times.

Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.

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