Some people believe that gemstones have healing properties. The ancients certainly agreed and August’s birthstone, Peridot, was credited in medieval times with curing depression and opening the heart emotionally to new experiences, new loves, and new opportunities.
The origin of the name “Peridot” is under dispute with some claiming the name to be a French derivation from the Arabic word for gem faridat. Others believe the word to have Anglo-Norman origins from the word pedoretés - a kind of opal. In the past, Chrysolite, an older word of German origin, was used to describe these gems before “Peridot” was applied to all gemstone quality Olivine stones in the late 18th century.
Regardless of how it got it's name, there is no stone quite like the Peridot.
Peridot has long been known to exist in outer space. Peridotite with Peridot crystals have been discovered all over the globe in meteorite fragments. Some ancient civilizations like the ancient Egyptians, referred to this stunning gem as the "gem of the sun" believing it to have fallen from the sky and that they were capable of harnessing the power of nature. Archeologists believe that the falling of meteorites was witnessed by the Ancient Egyptians in which they found fragments of the gem for the first time. Imagine their awe when they discovered the exact same gem in their mines too!
Peridot is a kind of olivine crystal formed in molten peridotite rock in the Earth’s upper mantle rather than the Earth’s crust where most other gemstones originate. In fact, except for Diamonds, Peridot is the only gemstone that forms this deep under the Earth’s surface. This means that Peridot gemstones are some of the oldest known gems in the world.
Peridot is chemically constructed out of olivine, silicate, magnesium and iron with a chemical formula of (MG, Fe)2SiO4. This unique gem is the only precious stone that only occur naturally in only one colour - green. The intensity and tint of the green is determined by the amount of iron present in the crystal structure and lighter coloured gems can appear light lime green under bright lights.
An Enchanted History
Peridot has long been revered for it’s beauty and is often associated with spirituality and expression. These calming precious stones were often mistaken throughout history as emerald and had earned the nickname of “evening emerald” from the Romans as a result.
Egyptians knew and mined Peridot and it is widely speculated that Cleopatra's famous emeralds were in fact deep green Peridot from the Egyptian mines on Zabargad. Ancient Egyptian scrolls record the mining of Peridot as early as 1500BC on a secret island referred to as Topazios island (later known as Zabargad and now called St. John’s Island). For several centuries the whereabouts of this island was unknown and it was speculated to be fictional to mislead those trying to find Egypt's treasure until 1905, when the island was rediscovered, shrouded in an impenetrable thick fog. Legend has it that the pharaohs royal guards kept watch over the island, with instructions to execute trespassers on sight and keep the miners safe from thieves. Mining was said to take place day and night collecting Peridot for the Pharaohs burial treasury. It is said that the peridot radiated in the darkness by the lights of the lamps carried by the miners.
In Europe, during the middle ages, large quantities of Peridot gems were frequently brought back from expeditions by emissaries, which was used to decorate palaces, churches and ceremonial robes. This was not only for adornment, but in Medieval times, peridot was believed to guard against evil and was often prescribed in a medicinal capacity (crushed up in a tonic drink) as a cure for heartache, depression, and night terrors. It was long believed that a peridot set in gold as a talisman or amulet would protect against nightmares and personal harm too.
Ancient Hebrews also knew of Peridot and the stone is mentioned several times in the Bible. Notably as one of the stones on Aaron’s breastplate as well as one of the layers in the foundation of the New Jerusalem.
A Phenomenon Unlike Any Other
Peridot is still widely believed to have a calming and comforting effect on its wearer with the stone in it’s raw unpolished form being available to purchase from most crystal outlets.
The most famous examples of rare large peridot are those included in the The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne’s Cathedral of St. Peter and Mary. The Shrine is constructed of timber and gold and includes over 1000 gemstones. The large green stones were initially mistaken as Emeralds, but later identified as Peridot, with the largest specimens weighing over 200 carats!
In Hawaii, Peridot are referred to as the “Tears of Pele” the island goddess of fire and volcanoes. This beautiful archipelago is home to one of only three green beaches, coloured by large concentrations of the mineral deposits in the sand.
For use in jewellery, Peridot is a softer stone, rating a 6.5-7 on Mohs Scale, making it suitable for jewellery that will not be worn constantly, like a dress ring or special pendant for an evening out. This is because this gem can scratch or damage easily. Gem quality peridot under four carats in size are usually affordable, however stones bigger than 4 carats are considered extremely rare and are priced accordingly. Whether green is your colour or not, the vibrant hue Peridot is quite unique in the world of jewellery. Love it, or not, this refreshing green stone brings vitality and vibrance to any piece of jewellery and person it adorns.