The extreme stone

Peridot is the gemstone for August.

Sometimes referred to as “the extreme stone”, it’s not the most expensive gemstone. However it is certainly one of the most exciting.

Deep heat

Most gems form in the earth’s crust.
However peridot, just like diamonds, are created much deeper, in the mantle.
That means the only way it can be mined is when it’s been brought to the surface by natural forces, either from the earth’s continental plates pushing together or volcanic activity.

Outer space

But Peridot is also found in stony metal meteorites that were formed four and a half billion years ago when our solar system was born. So if your jeweller describes this glorious yellow-green stone as being out of this world, they could literally be telling the truth.

How to spot the difference

Size and composition helps tell peridot that’s formed on earth apart from a stone created in outer space.  A peridot formed as a result of volcanic activity contains higher concentrations of lithium, nickel and zinc than those found in meteorites,

A shining light for mankind

Peridot has been valued since the dawn of civilisation because of its association with the sun, and its perceived protective power to ward off evil and the forces of darkness.

In the ancient world, peridot was first called topazos, named after the island Topazios where it was discovered.  This geologically unique island was created as the African and Asiatic plates converged, and this pressure pushed up metamorphic rock rich in the gemstone, from the earth’s lower crust.

From Topazios – but not to be confused with topaz

However it was the Arabs who gave the stone its current name of peridot, derived from the word “faridat” meaning gem.

Hardly surprising, but peridot is sometimes mixed up with topaz, a different golden-brown or yellow mineral. But, oddly, the stone that modern gemology identifies as topaz doesn’t even occur on the island.

Prized by the Egyptians

When the Egyptians discovered the rocks, they mined the island exclusively for the benefit of the Egyptian kings and queens, and the island was so closely guarded that anyone trying to land without permission risked death. For over 3,500 years the Egyptians reigned over the island until it was abandoned and lost to the world for centuries.

Is it a peridot or an emerald?

Peridots of a greener hue are frequently mistaken for emeralds, one of the favourite gems of Queen Cleopatra. Some historians believe many of her jewels may have been peridot stones. The Romans named it “Evening Emerald” because its colour did not darken at night.

Hawaiians love peridot too

On the other side of the world peridot was also a valued gem for the Hawaiians. But rather than pushed upwards by tectonic force, in Hawaii Peridot and its base mineral Olivine, is created in magma and spewed to the surface by active volcanoes. The molten crystals fall to the earth in the shape of a tear drop.

The first Hawaiians believed they were the tears of a volcano goddess they named Pele.

Peridot also features in Christian history

The Archbishop of Mainz in the 8th century, Frankish Benedictine monk Rabanus Marcus, believed it to be one of the twelve gems of the Apocalypse.

And the early crusaders of around 1100 brought the stone back to Europe, where its beauty assured its prominence in some of the most important medieval treasures. Considered calming because of its tranquil green colour, peridot is also adorns many medieval and more recent churches

On display at the Shrine of the Three Kings

Around 1199, King Otto 1V of Germany gave three golden crowns made for the three wise men as a present to the church of Cologne. The elaborate shrine to hold them was completed circa 1525.

This is the famous Shrine of the Three Kings that today sits inside northern Europe’s largest Gothic church and is still visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Among the 1,000 gemstones that decorate it are three prominent, beautiful green jewels. For centuries it was believed that they were emeralds, however now we know that they are actually impressive 200-carat peridots.

Also on display at The Tower of London

But you don’t have to join a pilgrimage to Cologne to see prestigious examples of this stunning gem. You’ll find large peridot specimens on display in the Tower of London too.

This gem is magic

In the 15th century, German occult writer Agrippa said Peridot had magical powers. Held to the sun he believed it would shine forth a golden star to sooth the respiratory system and alleviate asthma.

Not always in demand

As the mines in Topazios (called St John’s or Zabargad Island today) depleted, and large, good quality stones became increasingly hard to find, peridot became less popular.

New sources of emeralds and diamonds were also being discovered. To further contribute to the demise of peridot. So much so that it came to be known at one time as the ‘poor man’s emerald’.

Yes, tonight Josephine

However, never entirely out of favour, it enjoyed a resurgence in Europe during the Baroque period from around 1600 to 1750.

And in more modern times it is believed that Napoleon III gave empress Josephine a peridot jewel as a symbol of his love for her. It probably did the trick, as the jewel he reputedly gave to her is a magnificent 37.5 carat peridot stone, enhanced by diamonds and set in silver on gold.

As popular as ever again

Peridot became popular in jewellery in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.

Then, again, in the mid-1990s a rich deposit in Pakistan unearthed some of the finest Peridot crystals ever discovered, and with a resurgence of interest in this stunning gem. Today the peridot is once again a highly valued gemstone, particularly one that is over 8 carats.

As found on Mars

Bringing us slap up to date, in 2003 NASA reported that peridot had been found on Mars making it the only gemstone known to occur on another planet.

Then in 2006 a NASA explorer spacecraft, the aptly named Stardust, returned to earth with mineral samples it had gathered from near the sun. Among its haul was discovered gem quality peridot – old enough to have been in existence at the birth of our solar system.

The 4Cs

Although not as expensive as many other gems like diamonds, peridot’s value is determined in the same way, by the 4Cs: cost, colour, clarity and carat weight.

Green for go – but don’t be browned off

Peridot is the gem form of olivine, a magnesium iron silicate mineral. Depending on the amount of iron present, peridots may appear lighter or darker, ranging from pale golden-green, to deep olive or brownish-green, and the most valued being a dark olive-green.

Most commercially mined peridot is yellow-green. If it appears brown, its value is considerably lower.

Beware the black spot

Most of the stones with the finest colour come from Myanmar or Pakistan. Higher quality gemstones will have no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, although you may see some tiny black spots under a magnifying glass.

Another mark found fairly commonly in peridot, are disk-shaped inclusions resembling lily pods or fingerprints.  Visible dark spots dramatically lower the value of a gem.

A cut above the rest

Peridot is one of the softer gemstones and easily cut into a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles.

Shapes include everything from round, oval, pear, cushion, to triangle and marquise. Cutting styles vary from step cuts with concentric rows of parallel facets to mixed cuts of brilliant-cut crowns to step-cut pavilions.

Designer cuts fashioned by hand and machine are popular, as well as cabochons, beads and carvings.

Big is beautiful

As with any gemstone, the larger the stone the more you can expect to pay.

That said, you won’t find many peridots larger than 4 carats and, at that size, they are relatively inexpensive.  Once over this weight they begin to cost considerably more, with stones over 10 carats are exceedingly rare and expensive.

The largest cut peridot is a 310 carat weight specimen that currently resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

The hard facts

Although peridot is a gem of above-medium hardness, it’s nowhere near as hard as a diamond, and is softer than amethyst or emerald. That means you should avoid rugged wearing if mounted in rings.  The stone is sensitive to extreme heat and cold too, as well as changes in pressure. So consider bezel settings to protect the stone from knocks and bangs and avoid ultrasonic jewellery cleaners.

Peridots can also lose their shine if they come into contact with hydrochloric or sulphuric acid.

Adored by many civilisations

Peridot has been held in high esteem by numerous cultures throughout the ages, from the Sumerians and Romans, to ancient Greeks and Hawaiians, to Hindus and Christians.

And it is believed to hold all sorts of magical powers. From being a bringer of luck to healing the body and the mind, it’s been claimed to aid everything from better sleep to improving the digestive system.  Whether there’s any truth is these claims or not, there’s no denying that peridot is a stunning and relatively inexpensive gem that can add glamour to any outfit.

When combined with other gems, peridot looks beautiful with transparent or light pastel coloured stones like diamonds, pearls and different varieties of quartz.

Turn to a traditional jeweller

Whether you’re interested in a peridot or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s worthwhile seeking the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for advice.

So if you’re looking for necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or anything else, if you want something truly special John can help you find it.