World’s Richest and Oldest Gemstone Source: Zabaragad

Do you know that the oldest known gemstone region is actually a secluded island in the Red Sea? Now a part of Egypt, Zabargad was indeed the most prolific gemstone region in the ancient world, and to an extent even now. Even today, high quality Forsterite gemstone and peridots are found exclusively in this part of the world. Known to the world as St. John’s Island, the island also produces exciting varieties of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topaz and spinel gemstone.

spinel gemstones

If you are planning to explore a gemstone region, Zabargad in Egypt is the mecca for every gemstone collector.

Here’s what you should know about the place and its wide assortment of gemstone colonies.

Zabargad is no ordinary island:

Unlike most islands that have risen up due to volcanic activity, Zabargad was pushed upwards from the ocean floor by the colliding African and the Eurasian plate billions of years ago. Geologist call this period as the “Quaternary Period”, and the very movement caused the formation of many gemstones under intense pressure and heat.

Romans and Macedonians established the value of peridot and identified the island as the “Kingdom of gems”. The island was then named as “Topazios”. To keep the island safe from pirates and other empires, the romans spread the myth about the island as the abode of “serpents”.

For ages, European tradesmen marketed green peridots as emeralds. Only in 17th century, the gemologists made the first distinction between the Zabargadperidot and the emeralds.

Parts of islands:

The most fascinating aspect of exploring Zabargad is its geologically rich landscape. The hills and oubliettes are named after respective gemstones that are found there. For instance, the Peridot Hill! The Spinel pit and the Topaz cell are other protected areas that were once known to source gemstones.

A rich colony of corals surround the island, and remains one of the first known sources of coral gemstone. Even the plantation houses the organic source of amber and jet lignite.

The competition from other regions:

Once the Indian diamonds, Burmese rubies and Sri Lankan sapphires made it big into the European market, the peridots of Zabargad lost their importance to a significant extent. Here are top places in the world that are now fighting for the revered position of world’s largest producer of gemstones.

  • Mogok Valley, Myanmar

The exploits of the British took Mogok to the pinnacle of gemstone market. It remains the largest producer of precious and semi-precious stones in the world. Mogok is also called the “Valley of Rubies”, and produces chrysoberyl, moonstone and garnets.

  • Coober Pedy, Australia

The abode of the opals, this Australian is now a heritage site supplying more than 95% of the world’s opals!

  • Ratnadeep, Sri Lanka

In English, it translates to “The Gem Island”, and it continues to be an apt name! Enshrined in the list of world’s best gemstones, Ratnadeep is home to Alexandrite, star stones, and of course the majestic Blue Sapphire.

Madagascar is probably the only island after Zabargad to hold such a prestigious place in a gem collector’s travel diary. Enjoy the destinations.