August has the distinct pleasure of having the beautiful green Peridot as its birthstone as well as being my sister’s birthday month. It is also the anniversary gift for 16 years of marriage.
The Peridot is a beautiful green to yellowish green color. The peridot only comes in green; pale yellowish green, olive green, bottle green or intense vibrant apple green (the most desirable color). It is one of the few gems in the world where its color comes from the basic chemical composition and not from the impurities found within.
Unlike many other gems which form in the earth’s crust, the peridot is formed deep in the earth’s mantle. An extrusive igneous rock, it is a volcanic rock that is erupted by volcanoes to reach the surface. The oldest deposit
was discovered on the ancient island of Topazos, now known as Zabargad or St Johns Island in the Egyptian Red Sea. This small island was exploited for it’s Peridot for 3500 years until it was abandoned. The exact location of the island was unknown for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1905 and once again mined for it’s Peridot.
Some of the richest and beautiful deposits of this beautiful gem are in Pakistan and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. More mines are located in Burma, South Africa, Tanzania, Arizona and Hawaii.
The Peridot is not a very hard stone compared to other gems with only a 6.5 – 7.0 on the Mohs Hardness, and it is comprised of only Magnesium Iron Silicate. Chemically, peridot is an iron magnesium silicate and its intensity of color depends on the amount of iron it contains. There may also be traces of nickel and chromium present. It is a vertically striated crystalline gem that has short compact prisms. A beautiful green stone that is usually faceted and cut into the popular step cuts. It has, on rare occasion, been found with a cat’s eye chatoyancy (asterism) in the form of four ray stars. It is not typically treated or enhanced in any way.
Peridot has been used in jewelry for thousands of years. The Ancient Romans called it ‘evening emerald’ since it’s color did not darken at night, but could still be appreciated by candlelight and the light of a campfire. In ancient beliefs, peridot was a gift of Mother Nature to celebrate the annual creation of a new world. It is also said to have adorned the fabled breastplates of the Jewish high priests and was wildly popular during the Baroque era.
- It was believed the peridot could ward off evil spirits when strung on donkey hair and worn on the left arm.
- That it warded off “terrors of the night” especially when set in gold and worn to bed.
- Usually confused with green tourmaline and green apatite.
- Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection may have actually been peridot.
- Peridot has been found in meteorites as well as the depth of the earth’s mantle.
- At the turn of the century, so much peridot had been found, there was a theory that the earth may have a “peridot” layer. This has yet to be confirmed nor denied by scientists.
- National leaders who publicly wore peridot in ancient times were thought to be gentle, fair and wise.
So wear the Peridot because it is a magnificent gem that can withstand the molten heat of the earth’s mantle and the freezing temperatures of outer space. Wear it because it will ward of evil and night terrors. Or just wear it because it is a beautiful stone.
So, until next month when we are going to discuss the Sapphire, the last of the four precious stones.
The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe