The Egyptian royalty, both men and women, loved gold and coloured gemstones. They rewarded explorers who brought back beautiful stones. Thanks to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder we know more about the discovery of the peridot, this wonderful green gem.
The island of Zabargad in the Red Sea was often shrouded in mist. When sailers set sail, even on a beautiful day, the island tended to disappear from view. Finally one man managed to reach this mysterious island. On the beach, he found beautiful lime-green gemstones. Stunned by its beauty, the explorer hurried back to the royal palace in Thebes, to show the gem to Queen Berenice.
Berenice must have fallen head over heels for this exquisite stone. I thinks she had it set in a jewel, combined with amethyst. Not only was amethyst a very expensive gem, it was also purple, a colour reserved for royalty.
The reason was the exuberant cost to produce the dye, called Tyrian purple, painstakingly made using molluscs from the Mediterranean. It was colourfast and vivid, rare for a natural dye and costs more than gold. Only the richest of the rich could afford it, and was therefore also named Royal purple.
Soon queen Berenice discovered, while wearing her new jewel, another quality of her new gem: the colour doesn’t change with artificial light but remains intense green, while the emeralds of others turn dark. Many must have noticed it, but I think Berenice didn’t reveal her secret just yet… And so our royal collection is called The Secret of Berenice.