Peridot: Soothing Green
Peridot, the gem form of the mineral olivine, traces
its jewelry roots back more than 3,500 years. It was
first mined by the ancient Egyptians on the island of
Zebargad in the Red Sea. Zebargad was known as the "serpent
isle" because it was infested with snakes that
interfered with mining activity until one Pharaoh finally
had them all driven into the sea.
Found in various shades of green, peridot is most prized
in lime hues. The Romans called peridot "evening
emerald" because its green color was said to glow
at night. The gem was also used to decorate medieval
churches and was most likely carried back to Europe
by the Crusaders. Large peridots of more than 200 carats
in size adorn the shrine of the three magi at the Cologne
Cathedral in Germany.
Small crystals have been found in volcanic rock - in
fact, Hawaiian legend called peridot the divine tears
wept by Pele, goddess of the volcano. Samples of the
gem also have been discovered in meteors that have fallen
The ancients believed that peridot had the power to
ward off evil spirits, nightmares and enchantments.
It was also used as a medical remedy to treat asthma
and other ailments. Its power was considered most potent
when the stone was set in gold. Peridot was also said
to strengthen any medicine drunk from goblets carved
from the stone.
Most of today's peridot is mined by Native Americans
on the Carlos Reservation in Arizona. It is also mined
in Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Hawaii, Italy, Norway,
Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. A new deposit was discovered
in Pakistan in 1994, yielding some of the finest peridot
ever seen. Numerous fine, large crystals were discovered,
including one stone of more than 300 carats.
Peridot is readily available in a range of sizes, shapes
and color hues. The finest stones are eye clean and
have a deep, lime green color. Because inclusions are
common, clarity is an extremely important factor when
Its relative affordability and lively green color has
made it a popular substitute for those who cannot afford
emeralds. The birthstone for August, peridot is also
the recommended gem for couples celebrating their 16th
When shopping for peridot, keep in mind that it is
relatively soft (6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale) and
should be spared rugged, regular wear if mounted in
a ring. This is why the gem is more often used as a
sidestone for more expensive gems than as the center
stone. It is also highly sensitive to rapid temperature
changes and can lose its polish if brought into contact
with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.
Peridot is occasionally treated with colorless oil
or wax to improve its appearance. Surface fractures
are sometimes filled with a colorless resin that hardens.
If done properly, these treatments should remain stable.
Fine large specimens of the stone are on display at
the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the
Diamond Treasury in Moscow; and the Geological Museum