August's birthstone, peridot is a relatively inexpensive, beautiful gem with a pedigree dating back as far as early Egyptians. Among its accolades, peridot can count being a favorite among royals and clergy, used to adorn everything from a queen's crown to a knight's sword. Peridot jewels were among Cleopatra's beloved treasures, though many were found to be emeralds once the science of gemology advanced beyond classifying gemstones in ways other than just by color.
|Ranking 6.5 to 7 on Mohs' scale, peridot is among the softer of the "everyday" gems and should be worn gently. It can scratch when it comes into contact with harder gems, but is ideally suited for earrings, brooches, or pendants that are more protected from hard knocks than rings or bracelets might be. Peridot is generally not treated in any way, but exposure to rapid, extreme temperature changes may cause peridot to crack or break. Steam and ultrasonic cleaners should also be avoided. Warm water and mild detergent with a soft brush is the best way to clean peridot.|
|Peridot is found naturally in shades of light yellowish-green, green, olive-yellow, and sometimes brownish or brownish green. Unlike many other gemstones, peridot is usually not treated or enhanced in any way. |
|While peridot's greens range from yellowish green to greenish yellow, the most valued hue is pure green with no traces of brown or yellow. It's typically eye-clean but can contain tiny black chromite crystals or interesting inclusions that resemble lilypads. Peridot is often divided into two grades based primarily on intensity of color. Peridot's color is at its best in stones of 10 carats or greater. The world's finest, most valued peridot are mined in Burma (Myanmar) and Pakistan, in the Himalayas. Unrest in Burma and difficult weather conditions in Pakistan make peridot from both of these locations more rare and, subsequently, more valuable.|
Name Origin and Meaning
The name "peridot" is likely derived from the Arabic word faridat, meaning "gem," or the Greek word peridona, which roughly translates as "to give richness." Peridot has three other names: It's known as chrysolite in Europe, derived from the Greek word meaning "gold stone"; olivine, which is its mineral group name; and Hawaiite, which refers only to peridot found in Hawaii. Ancient Romans called peridot the "evening emerald" because it continued glowing vibrantly at night, even in dim candlelight.
Discovery and History
The discovery of peridot, like many mainstream gemstones, was likely thousands of years ago. More recent discoveries--at least those since such records were kept--include a deposit found on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea near the Egyptian coast. Those deposits were rediscovered around 1900 and were soon mined out.
Peridot had an uneventful history after that until, in the mid 1990s, a very plentiful, high-quality new peridot deposit was found in the mountains of Pakistan. Peridot once again became a darling of the gem community when those stones--some of the finest ever discovered--hit the market as Kashmir peridot.
Peridot can exhibit two-phase liquid and gas inclusions called lilypads, named such because that's exactly what they look like. Peridot's unique lilypads are just another example of inclusions that can be attractive and positive, rather than having a negative effect on a stone's appearance or value.
Phenomena: Star and Cat's-Eye
In very rare cases, peridot can display asterism (a star) or chatoyancy (the cat's-eye effect).
Egyptians believed that peridot disappeared in sunlight, and as a result, peridot has traditionally been mined at night, because the glowing gem was easier to see in the dark. Read more about peridot.
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