August's Birthstone: The Passion of Peridot
In ancient Egypt, Peridot was called the “gem of the sun” referring to the golden glow that emanates from within. This glow imparts a rich yellowish green hue — particularly appropriate for August birthdays and summer wear, when the sun shines and crops near their harvest. Now reach beyond birthstones to fashion where green has grown increasingly popular. It’s no wonder that peridot enjoys wide appeal.
Stay in the Shades. Most people associate peridot with its lighter pistachio shades. This is beautiful and quite plentiful. The finest peridot has a darker more radiant green with a hint of gold, but until 1990, this shade had grown rare. It is in this lush hue that you see peridot’s true splendor.
Peak Solution. So what happened in 1990? Imagine the inhospitable mountains of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. Not exactly high on your vacation list? I thought so. Yet there on a 13,120-foot pass a huge gem-quality peridot deposit was discovered. Fortunately for all of us, the quality of this Pakistan peridot was the finest ever seen. With incomparable color and transparency, they took the market by storm. Better still, the deposit is large enough to sustain peridot demand for a long time.
About that Green. Myanmar, China, Africa, Australia, and the USA all have peridot deposits. Peridot from each has a particular hue, depending on the amount of iron in the soil. Peridot from Myanmar has a vivid light green with fine inclusions, while American peridot found in Arizona has a golden brown hue. Peridot from Pakistan has very fine traces of iron resulting in the rich, vibrant green. You’ll find that shade in our Black Box Gemstone collection.
Some Enchanted Evening. The Egyptians called peridot the “Evening Emerald.” They would know. Egypt is home to the most ancient emerald and peridot mines. But why “Evening Emerald”? Well, it was green like emerald and they believed its inner fire made it more visible at night — and that was when it was mined.
In Another Light. Peridot is one of the few gemstones that looks the same in different lights: sunlight, candlelight, and artificial.
Mistaken Identity. About 2000 BCE, the Egyptians first mined peridot on a barren rocky island in the Red Sea. Today we call it St. John’s Island, but millennia ago it was called Topazios. In addition to peridot, other gems were mined on this island, and they were all called “topaz” after the island. Only much later did “Peridot” receive its distinctive name, which is thought to originate from the Arabic word faridat, meaning “unique” or “precious gem.” Others believe it came from the Old French word, peritot.
Deep down and Far Away. The fine peridot gems form over millions of years deep within the earth — 20 to 55 miles deep — in the Earth’s upper mantle. Diamond is the only precious stone that forms deeper than that. Peridot only comes to the surface through volcanic eruption or tectonic force. So we find it on near volcanoes and in mountainous regions where tectonic plates have clashed and risen.
There is another truly rare form of peridot. It came to the earth in a meteorite traveling across vast reaches of the universe. Because these crystals are 4.5 billion years old, they have scientific value far beyond gems used in jewelry.
Tears of Fire. Volcanoes formed the Hawaiian Islands, and there are still two active volcanoes on Hawaii Island, the destination of most tourists. Ancient Hawaiian folklore associated the goddess Pele with fire, lightning, and, you guessed it — volcanoes. Ancient Hawaiians believed that peridots were Pele’s hardened tears, a goddess’ generous gift to her beloved people.
If You Can’t Take the Heat . . . Peridot has a very, very high melting point. How high? It can withstand the intense heat inside a volcano, not to mention the intense heart of the Earth’s mantle.
Crush it. Drink it.To get close to nature, follow the regimen of the ancient Egyptian priests of Isis, the goddess of rebirth and rejuvenation. The priests crushed peridot into a fine powder then brewed it to create a strong beverage. To enhance their unity with nature, they drank this prior to ceremonies. It doesn’t sound like a great idea to me. I just can’t imagine crushing the stones, let alone drinking them.
The crusaders returned from their wars in Palestine with gifts of fine peridot from Topazios. They believed these beautiful green stones were emeralds and many were donated to European churches as such. The 200-ct gems in Cologne Cathedral in Germany provide a key example it. Much later they were discovered to be fine peridot.