Peridot - the Seamans Emerald

By: Nigel Makin

Peridot is the birthstone for the month of August, as well as being the anniversary stone to celebrate sixteen years of marriage. The name commonly used for this Gemstone in mineralogy is Olivine because of its olive-green colouring. The best sources of Peridot are Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Africa. Deposits in Arizona are the major source of Peridot within the United States.

Peridot only ever comes in green, from pale yellowish-green, olive-green, bottle green, with a vibrant apple-green being the most sought after and desirable Gemstone. Peridot is an idiochromatic Gemstone, meaning that the colour comes from the basic chemical composition of the stone itself, in this case iron and not from the impurities that usually colour Gemstones. The material is transparent but can contain many different inclusions, tiny drops of silica glass resembling "fingerprints" and "lily pads" are the most common.
A reflection of fibrous inclusions creating a silk-like appearance is also very common, this is known throughout the gem trade as "silk". The Peridot Gemstone has a vitreous and greasy lustre and occasionally, star effects and cat's-eye stones do occur.

For over 3500 years Peridot was mined from the volcanic island of St John, situated 188 miles east of Aswan, Egypt, but was forgotten for many centuries, only to be rediscovered around 1900. The ancient Romans and Greeks are said to have been very fond of Peridot, as was Cleopatra, who historians believe some of the dark green Gemstones worn by the Egyptian Queen were Peridot and not Emeralds. The early Egyptians believed that Peridot glowed by night, but was invisible during the day. During the Middle Ages, Peridot was brought to Central Europe by the Crusaders and often used for ecclesiastical purposes.
The largest known cut Peridot weighs 319 carats and was found on the island of St John and is now located in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Some cut stones came out of a meteorite, which fell in Siberia in 1749, these Peridots remain in Russia.

The Peridot Gemstone is said to enhance the power of speech, promotes peace and happiness and attracts success and good luck. Peridot helps in the healing of broken relationships and is also believed to be good for the skin and soothe the stomach. Peridot Gemstones are also believed to protect against nightmares, it is also crushed into powder and used as a remedy for asthma. Peridot was also said to possess the power to drive away evil spirits, and this was believed to be more intense when the Gemstone was set in gold. This lovely green stone also brings healing and vitality to the whole body, increasing patience, confidence and assertiveness. Peridot was thought to help dreams to become a reality, and as seafarers had brought the stone to Europe as a valuable gift, became known as the "Seaman's Emerald".

Peridot has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Moh scale of hardness and is a jewel that looks very nice when set in gold. Although the Gemstone is quite hard, a sharp blow could cause it to split and break so care should be taken with your Peridot Jewelry.
Peridot is very often faceted in the mixed or step cuts, this obtains the best colour for the stone and helps to guard against damage. Because the stone is sensitive to heat and acids it is a good practice to avoid steam cleaners and household chemicals.
Enjoy your Peridot Jewelry.

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