Peridot (pronounced pear-uh-doe) is a French word derived from the Arabic faridat, which means gem. The stone ranges in color from light yellow-green to the intense bright green of new grass to olive. Because of the way peridot splits and bends the rays of light passing through it, it has a velvety, "sleepy" appearance-a shining rich glow.
A Wealth Of Lore
According to astrologers, the wearer of peridot will enjoy happiness in marriage, the power of eloquence in speech and enduring freedom from insecurity-both emotional and physical. Ancient Egyptians called peridot "the gem of the sun," although they believed its seekers might not find it in sunlight. Because of their brightness in the desert sun, the stones were supposedly invisible by daylight. In darkness, however, they were alleged to give off a light of their own. by night, miners were said to mark their locations accordingly and return to recover their treasures by day.
Peridot was believed to have the power to dissolve enchantments. To exert its full potential, the stone was to be set in gold. Then it would drive away night's terrors. If it was to be used to protect the wearer from evil spirits, it had to be pierced, strung on the hair of a donkey, and worn on the left arm.
As a medical remedy, it was powdered to cure asthma. Holding a peridot under the tongue was supposed to lessen the thirst of a person suffering from fever.
The high priest's breastplate, which is described in the Biblical book of Exodus, includes a stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, one being peridot. The Bible also tells of a jewel worn by King Esekiel from Exodus, an impressive peridot.
Archaeologists have found valuable peridots in Alexandria, Egypt, which must have come from the original source, the island of Zebargad (zebargad being the Arabic word for peridot). It is located about 50 miles from the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea. Faceted stones have also been found in the ruins of ancient Greece and attributed to the same source. Zebargad, which was known for many years as Saint John's Island, may have been mined as early as 1500 BC. The island was discussed in the natural history of Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) as having been explored in the fourth century BC it was called "the Serpent Isle," since its many poisonous snakes interfered with mining activity. Eventually, an Egyptian ruler had the snakes killed and kept the miners isolated at work on the island. Because the rich green stones were so coveted, guards of the deposits were told to kill any unauthorized travelers approaching the island.
The treasure was kept secret from the western world for centuries-from Biblical times until the seventeenth century. The mines were very active from 1906 until world War I and afterward until World War II.
Burma then became the prime source of peridot, stones from its Mogok region being generally a bit lighter green than those of Zebargad. Another major worldwide source of peridot is the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Only the Apache Indians may mine there. Lesser sources of peridot are Norway, Brazil, Australia, Hawaii and the Congo. Peridots have been found in meteorites.
Where Fine Peridots May Be Seen
The largest known faceted peridot (310 carats) is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Now a part of the Diamond Treasury in Moscow, Russia, is a yellowish-green 192.75-carat stone which belonged to the czars. A step-cut peridot of 146 carats is in the Geological Museum, London, England. The collections of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Chicago Museum of Natural History have included beautiful examples of peridot. Many peridots were taken to Europe by crusaders returning from the East and kept in cathedrals. Especially fine specimens are in the cathedral in Cologne.
A Special Appeal
Owners of peridots have reported that their fondness for these gems continues to increase over time.
Whether step-cut or fashioned as brilliants, peridots can be used for rings, earrings, pins, necklaces and bracelets. They are available at affordable prices for those with modest tastes and in elaborate matched suites for connoisseurs. They can be set alone or combined with other gems that compliment their delicacy.
Making A Wise Purchase
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase. Our firm is a member of the American Gem Society. As a condition of membership, we are re-examined each year to meet the Society's high standards for knowledge, professionalism and integrity. The AGS symbol is the hallmark of consumer protection within the jewelry profession - as it has been for over 50 years. Many gems are processed to enhance their natural beauty. Ask your American Gem Society jeweler to discuss which techniques might apply to the gem of your choice.