Peridot - The Gem of the Sun
Peridot has always been associated with light - the Egyptians called it the “gem of the sun.” Some believed that it protected its owner from “terrors of the night,” especially when it was set in gold, while other hung the gems on donkey hair and tied them around their left arms to ward off evil spirits. This August birthstone was valued in many ancient and medieval cultures. It appeared in priests’ jewellery as early as the second century BCE and later in the chalices and churches of medieval Europe.
In 2006, NASA’s Explorer spacecraft, "Stardust", embarked on a mission to gather samples from near the sun. These particles were analysed upon its return and amazingly they included gem-quality peridot believed to be as old as our solar system, which was formed some 4.5 billion years ago!
Early records indicate that the ancient Egyptians first mined a beautiful green gem on an island in the Red Sea called Topazios (now known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad). Legend has it that the island was infested with snakes, making mining unpleasant until a vigorous pharaoh drove them into the sea. From the earliest times, people confused this stone with other gems, such as Topaz. But now we know it forms from the mineral Olivine with colours ranging from yellowish green to greenish yellow. The most favoured colour is a richly saturated pure "grass green" without any hints of yellow or brown.
The word peridot comes from the Arabic “faridat” which means “gem.” Most peridot formed deep inside the Earth and travelled to the surface by volcanoes, and some also came to earth in meteorites! But this extra-terrestrial peridot is extremely rare, and not likely to be seen in a retail jewellery store.
Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection might actually have been peridot, and people in medieval times continued to confuse peridot with emerald. For centuries, it was believed the fabulous 200ct gems adorning the shrine of the Three Holy Kings in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral were emeralds... They are, in fact, peridots.
The largest cut peridot in the world weighs a whopping 311 carats and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The mixed cushion shape stone originated from the Zabargad Island in Egypt. Another impressive peridot is part of Russia’s Diamond Fund - a unique collection of gems, jewellery and specimens on display in the Kremlin Armoury. The yellowish-green stone weighs 192.75 carats and once belonged to the Russian Royal Family.
EnhancementsMost peridots don’t normally receive treatments. However, some cut peridots may be metal-foiled to help improve their stability and colour.
Peridot has never been synthesized, but several do imitations exist, including natural stones such as tourmaline, and man-made imitations such as glass. Green glass is the most common imitation and can be easily separated by its single refraction (peridot has double refraction).
Olivine's can range in Mohs Hardness from 6.5 to 7. Peridots can approach quartz gems in hardness, however, they are still sensitive to scratching and are susceptible to stress fractures.
Avoid settings that place stress on peridots and clean them only with a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. Don't let your jewellery stay wet for long periods of time: to dry use a clean dry cloth and dab. Peridots also have some sensitivity to acids, even those found in perspiration - try not to sweat in your jewellery. Peridot jewellery should be worn against the skin only occasionally, it is usually best practice to bezel it in yellow gold to avoid long periods of skin-to-gem contact.
Rosendorff has a range of gemstone jewellery, like these 4.57ct Oval Peridot Drop Hook Earrings for just $1,250.