THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


18.     chrysolite

Greek: chrusolithos, a golden-yellow gemstone. Revelation 21:20.

Probable Identification: biblical chrysolite is citrine quartz, yellow topaz, or yellow corundum


    Chrysolite in modern usage is gem peridot or olivine ([Mg,Fe]2SiO4), which is pistachio green. Deep green olivine crystals occur on Jazirat Zabargad (Zebirget or St. John's Island) in the Red Sea, although ancient writers called them topaz. The ancient and modern names of peridot and topaz somehow became reversed. Olivine occurs commonly as granular masses in coarse, basic igneous rocks. Zabargad peridots are often several centimeters long. They occur in a vein of nickel ore within a sepentinized dunite, a metamorphosed basic igneous rock. The exceptional size of the Zabargad peridots reflects slow crystallization deep within continental crust. Olivine is softer than topaz and corundum, and it weathers so easily that fresh olivine is rare in humid climates. Gem peridot forms orthorhombic crystals, but large crystals are rare and usually flawed by inclusions. The principal sources of gem peridot are Arizona, Burma, and Zabargad Island. The hardness and specific gravity of olivine vary from 6.5 to 7 and 3.27 to 3.37, respectively, in direct proportion to its iron content.

    Citrine is a variety of coarsely crystalline quartz that is tinted yellow by a trace of iron. See "CRYSTAL" and "QUARTZ."

Historical Background:

    Pale green, translucent to transparent olivine is widely distributed in Egypt and the Sudan, and was used for making beads and amulets from predynastic times onward. Legends assert that peridot was a favorite of Cleopatra. The Egyptians and Romans kept their source secret, and the Zabargad mines were not rediscovered until around 1900. Many beads identified as beryl or emerald may actually be olivine.


    Yellow topaz: See "TOPAZ."

    Yellow corundum: See "SAPPHIRE"



Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 380-381.

Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 402.

Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004.

Said, op. cit.; 262.

Schumann, op. cit.; 158-159.

            Webster, op. cit.; 140.

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