An ancient gemstone, with the radiance of the sun; beloved by the Pharaohs, in second place on Aaron’s breastplate, judged magical by the Romans, carried home by the crusaders to adorn medieval churches and mined on an island that seemed to float in and out of existence over the centuries – this is the mystery that is peridot. It is also, quite literally, a gemstone that comes from the stars – found in meteorites that have fallen to Earth; although this material has almost never been usable in jewelry. The ancient Egyptians thought it had talismanic powers and the Romans called it the “evening emerald”, because its color remains unchanged even in artificial light.
Peridot belongs to the mineral family of olivine, or forsterite. It is found in basalts or molten rock like lavas. It is one of those rare gems that occur in just one color, green. Produced for centuries exclusively on the mysterious, barren island of Zabargad, off the coast of Egypt, the gem-rich country of Burma, China, the USA, Africa and Australia are now also suppliers. Peridot has gone in and out of fashion throughout the ages. An Edwardian favorite, it sank again into years of relative obscurity until a find was made in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1990’s. This produced abundant supplies of fine stones of a luscious, apple green color delicious enough to bite into and shot it back into the limelight to become a darling of the modern market.
Peridot is found in crystals of varying sizes, but because of strong tensions within the crystal due to inclusions, it is often cut into smaller sizes to avoid unnecessary cracks that would spoil its inherent beauty. Peridot is often transparent and eye-clean and, where inclusions can be seen within the gemstone, they can have an otherworldly effect. Minute crystals surrounded by circular stress cracks form exquisite “lily-pad” shapes within the stone, and gorgeous needle inclusions resemble shooting stars. All are accentuated by the high birefringence of the stone, which doubles the effect. Peridot might not always be the most brilliant of gems, but its rich apple green color is unique, erupting like a solar flare, illuminating one’s life and warming the soul. Indeed, it may come as no surprise that the ancient Egyptians called it the “gem of the sun”. DM