Nuttalls of Chester - Peridot The Birthstone for August

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If you would like to know a little more about Peridot Rings, Peridot Parrings, Peridot Pendants and other Peridot Jewellery, then here is a little background information.

Peridot was called the 'gem of the sun' by the Ancient Egyptions and 'evening emerald' by the Romans who often mistaken it as such. Hawaiians thought it to be the Goddess Peles' tears. Pirates thought it had the power to drive away evil spirits, and powdered peridot has been used to cure asthma - No wonder it was Cleopatras' favourite gemstone!

August Birthstone poem - the Peridot

"Wear a Peridot or for thee,
No conjugal fidelity,
The August born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved alone

Peridot is one of the prettiest of all green gems, occurring in a colour that is the epitome of grass green. Interestingly enough, the name topaz may have initially been applied to Peridot, for it is found on the island of Topazos (Zabargad) in the Red Sea.

The name Peridot is used to describe the gem variety of the forsterite to fayalite olivine series.

What is Peridot

Properties of Peridot

Composition Peridot is the gem variety of the olivine group, which has the following species:

  • Forsterite–Mg2SiO4
  • Fayalite–Fe2SiO4
  • Hardness (Mohs) 6.5 to 7
  • Cleavage Imperfect to distinct in one direction (rarely seen)
  • Specific Gravity 3.34 + 0.17,–0.07
  • Refractive Index 1.654–1.690 (±0.020)
  • Birefringence 0.035 to 0.038
  • Optic Character Biaxial (positive or negative; the beta index is usually near halfway between alpha and gamma)
  • Crystal System Orthorhombic; usually occurs as rounded pebbles; well formed crystals are quite rare
  • Colours Mainly green; sometimes yellow or brown
  • Pleochroism Weak to moderate, dichroic
  • UV Fluorescence Generally inert
  • Dispersion 0.020
  • Phenomena Cat’s eye and star peridot are known, but are rare
  • Handling Ultrasonic: not safe; never clean peridot ultrasonically
  • Steamer: not safe
  • The best way to care for peridot is to clean it with warm, soapy water. Avoid exposure to heat, acids and rapid temperature changes.
  • Enhancements Peridot is not typically enhanced.
  • Synthetic available? No

History, Legend and Lore

In ancient believes peridot was a gift of Mother Nature to celebrate the annual creation of a new world. National leaders who publicly wore Peridot were in former times thought to be gentle, fair and wise.

In Antiquity, as well as in the Middle Ages people believed that the cosmos is reflected in gemstones. Peridot is assigned to planet Saturn. The esoteric movement revived the ancient belief and the gem industry made it another marketing tool to promote certain gems.

The green stone was first called topazion, and this name remained until the 18th century when the British began to refer to the gem as peridot. Today, the gem variety of forsterite of the olivine group still bears that name.

Like other gems, Peridot was believed to offer special powers to the wearer. Marbodei mentioned in De Lapidibus that Peridot would dispel the terrors of the night: “If it were to be used as a protection from the wiles of evil spirits, the stone had to be pierced and strung on the hair of an ass and then attached to the left arm.” In the Middle Ages, the belief persisted that Peridot would dissolve enchantments and put evil spirits to flight.

Although no records survive, significant work must have taken place during the 11th and 12th centuries. Christian crusaders are known to have returned home with large Peridots as part of their loot. Fine gems from these mines remain today in a number of European sanctuaries including the Treasury of the Three Magi in Cologne and the Vatican. The precious stone and jewelry collection in the Tower of London also contains large peridot gems.

In the early 1900s new Peridot crystals began to appear in European mineral collections, and fine faceted stones were once again offered for sale by important jewelers. Turkish rulers of Egypt apparently directed a series of successful mining ventures until 1922, when the Red Sea Mining Company acquired a lease and located new sources of the gem material. Ismalum Bey, managing director of the company, sold history’s largest peridot crystal–actually only a crystal half–to Cairo businessman Max Ismalun. Measuring 6.6 by 5.1 by 2.5 centimeters, the well formed, nearly flawless specimen, as fine deep green colour. Ismalun took the crystal to London and sold it for $100 to the British Museum of Natural History, where it may be seen today. The Red Sea Mining Company abandoned its operation with the outbreak of World War II, and since that time the Peridot deposit has been worked only sporadically. For the past 20 years, it has been abandoned.

Mineralogists know that large Peridot crystals initially formed in fault cracks–some of them 25 meters deep–which penetrated the basic country rock, peridotite. Poorly attached to crack walls, the crystals may have been loosened by seismic action or weathering, after which they tumbled to the bottom of the fissures where miners found them mixed in the rubble of broken rock. While crystal faces are usually clean and bright, they frequently show fresh fractures, lending credence to the theory that seismic movement damaged them.

Peridot is found in a number of localities around the world, but large gem crystals are unique to Zabargad. Crystals most often are flattened and tabular in form. Doubly terminated examples are very rare.

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