Peridot: The Birthstone of August

The beautiful olive green peridot is the birthstone of August. The Romans titled peridot “The Evening Emerald” as the gem’s vibrant green hue did not darken with the setting of the sun. In fact, ancient Egyptians were said to have mined peridot at night time, as the stones natural glow made it easier to locate. The Egyptians referred to peridot as the gem of the sun because of its unique interactions with light.

Although the ancient Egyptian’s cosmic association of peridot and the sun may have been symbolic, the origins of peridot do have some extraterrestrial origin. While most peridot is found in volcanic basalt rock (rock formed from lava cooling) or within the earth’s mantle, a very rare source of Peridot is located in meteorites. This unusual source of Peridot derived from outer space is unlikely to be found jewellery stores but rather inside of a geological museum.

While modern fashion has not favored peridot in contemporary jewellery pieces, peridot was once an extremely popular gemstone. The renowned emerald collection of Cleopatra has recently been suggested to actually have comprised of peridot.

Throughout the ages, peridot has in fact faced many cases of mistaken identity. For centuries it was thought that the extravagant 200 carats of peridot gemstones adorning the Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral, Germany were emeralds. Peridot is a gem quality variety of olivine, a silicate material with iron and magnesium impurities. The yellow-green colour which causes the confusion with other green gemstones such as emerald, green garnet or topaz is a result of iron impurities.

Figure 1: Peridot Tiara belonging to Archduchess Isabella of Austria

The ancient Egyptians mined peridot from the island Topazios (now known as Zabargad) in the red sea. The island is geographically quite unique as it was formed through the converging of the African and Arabian continental plates uplifting part of the earth’s mantle. The island is home to 3 masses of peridotite, which is rich in Peridot. Over 80% of the world’s modern supply of peridot now comes from San Carlos Apache Indian Reserve located in Arizona.

Ancient cultures believed that when peridot was set in gold it possessed healing powers. Wearers of peridot jewellery are said to be protected from evil dreams. Peridot is a symbol of strength and serenity.