An ancient gemstone, peridots were once upon a time featured in the most sacred objects, adorned royalty and made the two most famous lists of gemstones in the bible. But peridot kind of fell out of favour, yet has made a comeback in modern times. This beautiful green gem has been called all kinds of names, and it is only with modern gem recognition techniques that peridot claimed its own rights as a gem.
Peridot is part of the mineral group called olivine, with a composition that includes iron and magnesium. Interestingly enough, peridot is one of the few gems that come only in one colour, in this case green. The reason for this being its high iron content, making up at least ten percent of the gem, whereas most other gems only have a few trace elements that affect their colour.
Another unique characteristic of the peridot is that other than diamonds, it is the only gemstone formed deep under the earths crust, and is delivered to the surface by volcanic eruptions. Then there is the interesting source of peridots; from outer-space. Yes, peridot crystals have been delivered to earth in meteorites, but this source rarely produces the size of crystal needed for gemstone quality. Furthermore, in 2003 NASA scientists found a large area of Mars to be covered in peridot crystals and concluded that there is an area of at least thirty thousand square kilometers of green peridot fields on the ‘red planet’.
Peridot has always been associated with light, one of the reasons being that the gem retains its brilliant radiance under low and artificial light, and is therefore favoured in jewellery to be worn at night. Peridot has long been known as the “evening emerald”, and the ancient Egyptians called it the “gem of the sun”. For this reason the ancients believed the peridot protected from “the terror of the nights”, especially set in gold. Those who couldn’t afford gold, strung the gems on donkey hair to ward off evil spirits.
Today the best and biggest peridots are found in Myanmar, near the ruby mines of Mogok. Norway produces a paler green gem with a lovely lime-green colour. Arizona in the USA and Mexico are big sources, but produce small stones. Egypt is home to the island that was the most famous producer in ancient times, now called Zabargad and still an active source. Also in Africa, Tanzania produces gemstone quality peridot, while Kenya produces a browner crystal due to high iron content. Peridots are found in South Africa, but mainly as a component of kimberlite, the mineral matrix within which diamonds are found, causing the grounds around many diamond mines to be blue-green in colour. Hawaii boasts beautiful green beaches due to the tiny peridot crystals delivered there by volcanoes, but these are also too small to be worked into gems. Elsewhere China, Russia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Brazil are important sources for gem quality stones.
Peridots come in at 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which means the gem is good to use as jewellery, but will not stand up to everyday wear as a ring, unless the setting is protective of the stone. Care should also be taken not to wear peridot against the skin too often as they are very sensitive to acids, even those found in perspiration. So they should never be cleaned with steam or ultrasonic, but rather warm water and soap. Also take care not to mix them in the jewellery box with your harder gemstones as they will get scratched.
Peridots remain a favourite of ours as they truly have a unique green brilliance. The stone at the top of the blog is an 8.32ct example from Jay’s stock. We also have a few items for sale on the website. I have some pictures below with links in the captions. We are also currently working on a Pearl Special we are very excited about, and will be sending news shortly.
Until then please stay safe, and get your jab,
JD and Jay