Peridot ~ August's Birthstone

The peridot is a very old gemstone. It is one of a series of magnesium-iron rich silicate minerals. Its color is green, with a bit of gold, the latter of which comes from fine traces of iron. The intensity of a peridot's color depends on the amount of iron in the stone and the color can vary through many shades, from yellowish green and olive, to brownish green. Peridot is not a hard stone. It measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. Although it can be difficult to cut, once the cutter removes the coarser inclusions, the peridot is relatively easy to care for and fairly hardy. The most precious peridot are cat's eyes and star, which are quite rare. This gemstone actually has three names: peridot, chrysolite (from the Greek "gold stone," and "olivine," (because it is the gemstone form of the mineral olivine). Its common name, 'peridot, comes form the Greek word peridona, meaning "to give richness." The earliest record we have of the production of peridot dates back to about 70 A.D. We have learned that the stones from that time came primarily from a deposit on St. Johns, a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt.The St. Johns deposit was rediscovered around 1900, but has since been exhausted. Later on, peridot of fine quality came from deposits in Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Burmese government has severely limited the mining of peridot, so that supply of fine stones may also become less and less available. For many years the largest producer of peridot was here by the United States. Today the United States' major competitors are China and Pakistan (in the Kashmir region, between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) that produce stones that are beautiful in color and transparency. Finally, some peridot also comes from Africa and Australia.

In the middle of the 1990s, an amazing deposit of fine peridot stones was found in a very remote area in Pakistan. Because of its difficult location and intemperate weather, the deposits could only be mined there in the summer. The stones from this location were finer than anything seen before. The deposits are rich and so, for the time being at least, the demand for the stone can be met.

The characteristic of the peridot which is greatly esteemed is that it doesn't change its color even under artificial light. Perhaps it is for that reason that the ancient Romans nicknamed the peridot "'emerald of the evening." Some historians suspect that at least some of the "emeralds" worn by Cleopatra were actually peridot. Peridot has also been found in medieval churches in Europe. The shrine in Cologne Cathedral, for example, is adorned peridot. In the baroque period, peridot again came into favor for a brief time, until again its popularity faded. Another unusual characteristic of peridot is that it's one of just a few gemstones that are found in only one color, green.

Like its fellow birthstones, birthstone for the month of August, the peridot is thought to bring its wearer success, peace, and good luck.

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