Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Green of August- Peridot

Image via Just Gemstones
Image via PalaGems
Image via Rose Diamonds

Peridot. Per'i-dot or pear-a-doe, either one is used, the former probably the correct pronunciation, the later having come into common enough usage to be included in several dictionaries and other reference materials. It is mentioned in the Bible as Chrysolite, the seventh stone in the foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelations 21:20) and as pitdah and beryl on the Breastplate of Aaron, from which it is generally believed our birthstones are derived. It is not clear whether the word peridot comes from the Arabic word faridat, which means gem or if it is derived from the French word peritot which means unclear, probably for the cloudy appearance of larger stones. The French were the first to call this yellow-green stone peridot in the 18th century. Before then, peridot was known as topaz.

peridot open pit mining
Image via Sew Darlene

Peridot has been mined as a gemstone for over four thousand years. At that time, peridot was mined on the serpent-infested island of Zabarjad, in the Red Sea. Legend says that jealous watchers who had orders to put to death any trespassers guarded the entire island. Peridot was brought back to Europe by Christian soldiers during the crusades. Peridot were later used in the decoration of European cathedrals. Large stones, more than 200 carats in size, adorn the shrine of the Three Magi at the Cologne Cathedral. Early miners would hunt for peridot at night because it was believed that the stone was not easily seen in day and the light of the moon or lamplight made the crystals easier to find. These early miners would mark the sites and then return in the daylight to dig up the stones. Romans called peridot "evening emerald" for this reason.

Photograph of Peridot under the microscope
Image via Molecular Expressions

So what is peridot? Peridot is Magnesium Iron Silicate- (Mg,Fe)2SiO4- with more magnesium than iron. It is a volcanic gemstone and one of the few gemstones to occur in only one color. If it's peridot, it's green. In fact, peridot is a transparent gem quality variety of the mineral olivine and is commonly found in lava rock (basalt or igneous rocks).  Olivine is actually a fairly common mineral but gemstone quality peridot is rare. Most of the world's peridot comes from the San Carlos Apache Reservation mine in Arizona, where there are large deposits of lesser quality, though still lucrative, peridot. Foudn all over the world, fine quality peridot comes from Myanmar and Egypt, and the finest  from Pakistan, where a huge deposit of excellent stones was discovered in the 1990's in a high, inhospital Himalayan pass in the Nanga Parbat region in the Pakistani part of Kashmir. The conditions in this pass are so tough that the stones can only be mined in the summer.

Image via Stones and Crystals

Peridot is generally formed deep within the earth under conditions of extreme temperature and pressure. But if you came across a peridot that you really liked you might be tempted to exclaim, "This color is out of this world!" and you may, in fact, be correct. Periodot can also be found in a stony-iron meteorite called a pallasite.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Three-foot slab from the Fukang Pallasite.
Image via Southwest Meteorite Lab

I can see this set in a plain silver frame (no backing so the light
can shine through when held up like this) as a pendant.
Image via Arizona Skies Meteorites

The color of peridot ranges from lime or apple green to olive green, grass green, and even a brownish green. While it looks best in daylight it does not change color under artificial light as some blue or red stones tend to do. Peridot's color comes from it's basic chemical composition, not from impurities. That is why it is only green, no other color. Waxes, oils, and resins will occasionally be used to enhance the look  of the stone though there are no known treatments to enhance or change the color- it is what it is. Gorgeous.


Image via JTV

Long confused with Emeralds, which are darker green, the most valued hue is pure green with no traces of brown or yellow. Nice quality peridot  are typically eye-clean but can contain tiny black chromite crystals or interesting inclusions that resemble lily pads.

Image via Gemology Online

The mythology of peridot  holds that Peridot was considered to have the power to drive away evil spirits and that power was even more intense when the stone was set in gold (especially at $1663.39 per ounce, as of close of market on Friday 8-5-11). It was also said to strengthen the power of any medicine drunk from goblets carved from the gemstone. It is thought to bring the wearer good luck, peace, and success. Its powers  are alleged to include health, protection, and sleep, to attract love and to calm anger while also soothing nerves and dispelling negative emotions. They were said to possess the power to dispel the terrors of night-fears and bad dreams but according to Pliny The Elder, the Great Roman authority on such matters, for peridots to work their strongest magic, they must be worn on the right arm. Pirates, on the other hand (ah ha, pun warning) believed that to be effective against evil spirits the peridot had to be strung on donkey hair and worn on the left wrist (get it-- "on the other hand". Oh stop me....). Egyptians used Peridot to clean and heal the heart.

Peridot and Emerald Green Ring
This ring shows the more lime green of the peridot in the center stone
compared with the two small darker emeralds.
Image via luisfernando on etsy

Peridot has been long considered to be an aid to friendship and supposedly frees the mind of envious thoughts. Other legends credit peridot with bringing happiness and good cheer, luck, fame, dignity, attracting lovers, and strengthening the eyes. The list of peridot's supposed healing powers is quite impressive, from curing diseases of the liver and difficulties with digestion, to aiding in physical detoxification and help with problems with the kidneys, bladder, gall bladder, the stomach, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also said to help heal insect bites, which at this point in the summer I may be willing to actually try. Peridot has a tonic effect- it heals and regenerates tissues, strengthens the metabolism and benefits the skin. If placed on the abdomen, it aids in childbirth by strengthening the muscle contractions while lessening the pain. Oh sure, now you tell me! In short, peridot is believed, by those who believe in this sort of thing, to be a tonic for the entire body, rather than any one specific body system. It is also thought by some to be the gemstone of the first wedding anniversary, when love is still young – green and growing like a spring plant. You get another chance for your 16th wedding anniversary.

This cute little 5"x 6" calf sold online for $7475. Sorry you missed it.
Image via Aspire Auctions

So let's go shopping. When buying peridot, keep in mind that its color is more "velvety" when compared to the fire and bling of emeralds. Because the stone is so readily available, the gauge of quality is eye clean stones with no visible inclusions. The color of the most highly valued stones is a bright grass green with no yellow or olive tones but that’s very much a matter of personal preference. If you like a richer, deeper, more earthy tone, you could get an excellent bargain in a peridot piece. Larger stones are usually cloudy so clear stones greater than 4 carats can become quite expensive though the best color is usually found in these larger stones.

Green sand beach- Papakolea Beach of Hawaii's Ka'u district.
OK- it's olivine and not technically peridot but the thought is cool enough that I'm going with it.
Image via Indian Cinema Fans

So now that all of our insect bites are healed and that pesky irritable bowel has cleared up, we need to take care of our sweet green peridot. August's birthstone is a rather soft stone and needs to be protected from bumps as well as extremes in temperature changes. Always remove your peridot (really, any gemstone) before doing the chores around the house and yard, avoid household chemicals, and put on makeup, hair spray, lotions, and other cosmetics before you don your gems. Even though peridot is formed under extreme heat and temperature conditions deep within the earth, it wears easily once it has breached the surface. Avoid prolonged exposure to harsh sunlight as this can fade the stone. Clean your stone with dishwashing detergent or a mild commercial cleaner. No ultrasonic cleaners allowed. Soak for 10 minutes or so in a warm soapy solution, clean with a soft brush, rinse, and pat dry. Store your peridot in a soft pouch so that it is not scratched by harder stones such as those mean ol' diamonds.

OK gang-- let's go strolling over some grassy green meadows!

Rough peridot, white topaz, freshwater pearls. $2400
Image via Amy Ming Jewelry Blog

Image via Crystal Dragon

Peridot mining operation in Burma.
All of you OSHA people take a deep breath.
Image via Palagems

Peridot on top of magnetite.
Image via Exceptional Minerals

Image via Indian Fashion Frills

Rene Lalique "To Have & To Hold" Bird Engagement ring, circa 1904.
Image via Stylehive

I love this ring.

An antique-look original though the stones are genuine peridot.
Image via Cydneys Antiques

From All That Glitters Gallery at San Diego Natural History Museum
Image via WikiRism

Note- if anyone visits the Butterfly Brooch Collection at the San Diego Natural History Museum, would you pick one up for me? Kidding! But do zip me an email and tell me how gorgeous the collection is so I can be happy with you.

And with the arrival of this month's butterfly, we have arrived at the end of our look at the peridot. I know that we are coached to "value the most valuable" but anyone who knows me understands that I don't always hold to that way of thinking. I value what I value, I like what I like. So it may not come as a surprise that I prefer the peridot, with its sweet, lime green, sunny disposition, over the darker emerald. The peridot seems more accessible to me, and I like the idea of that friendliness. Well, after all, the peridot is supposed to enhance friendships.

Thank you each for fluttering through the jungle with me today. Go outside now and enjoy some real grassy greens- if they haven't dried up in all this heat. Yow! Stay safe and cool out there and I'll see you next time.


  1. I just love all your gemstone details. I have always like peridot maybe b/c green goes so well with my red hair. Now knowing all the history and the healing powers why would anyone ever ask for diamond or ruby, they are just bad luck anyway.

  2. Another spectacular effort! You are so good to us, going to all the effort to share so much information and eye candy!

    I fell in love with peridot for the first time three years ago. Green is not my most favorite color but one day I actually looked into the face of a peridot and that was that! Hooked! In love! I promptly went out and bought tiny peridot nuggets to string into a choker.

    And then that same month, I had the opportunity as a volunteer at the mineral museum, to clean the case housing the slice of pallasite - which included holding and dusting the treasure from outer space. Both my loves - of minerals and of space held in my hand in one brief magical moment!

    And now this beautiful post to enjoy and savor. Thank you.