Where does Peridot Come From?
Peridot is a magnificent bright green stone which has been worked into fine jewellery since ancient times. The mineral had been mined on St.Johns Island in the Red Sea for over 3,500 years before crusaders brought it to Europe in the middle ages.
St.Johns is an Egyptian island which they call Zabargad, but the Greek civilization named it Topazios, which was their name for peridot. Over the years it became apparent that peridot was distinct from the topaz, but the name is still used.
Although the island is the main source of Peridot the mineral has also been found within pallasite meteorites, which indicates that Peridot may be more abundant elsewhere in our solar system.
What is Peridot?
Peridot is one of the few gemstones which only occurs in one colour. Topaz, which it was initially mistaken for, varies tremendously. It can be found in a similar bright green form, but orange, yellow, red and even bright pink. Even emeralds vary from deep green through brighter hues, yet peridot is always the same clear, light green.
It is composed of the mineral olivine, which is named for its olive green colouration. Olivine is opaque and is a common component of the earth’s mantle, but is quickly damaged by the elements if exposed. The proportion of olivine which is sufficiently transparent to meet the standards of gem-quality peridot is extremely low, and its susceptibility to wear from the weather means that it is both rare and valuable.
Most coloured gemstones take their colouration from chemical impurities - Emerald for example takes its colour from minute amounts of the mineral chromium in beryl, which would be white but for this addition. Peridot’s consistent colour is due to the fact that it is not an impurity but an intrinsic part of the base mineral. This makes the stone an idiochromatic gemstone - one whose colour derives only from itself.
Use in Jewellery
Although peridot is sometimes used in jewellery on its own it is most often paired with other stones which complement or contrast to make its colour brighter or more stark by comparison. When paired with diamonds peridot benefits from their scintillation, magnifying its brightness, however its most prevalent historic use was as a key component of Edwardian Suffragette Jewellery.
The suffragette movement used peridot with amethyst and diamond or pearl to exhibit the colours of the movement. Peridot represented hope, amethyst symbolised dignity and loyalty whilst pearls and diamond stood for purity. The colours also spoke to the central goal of the movement - Green for Give, White for Women and Violet for Votes.
You can read more about the jewellery crafted during the Suffragette movement here.
Peridot’s comparative rarity in ancient times means that it has picked up less of the folklore and superstitions associated with many of the more well-known gemstones. The Suffragettes did occasionally use emeralds in their jewellery, but peridot was much more widely used because its bright green colour was indicative of new growth, a potent symbol of hope.
This same meaning led to the belief that peridot could bestow good health, mental wellbeing and restful sleep. Its brightness and clarity is also believed to bring good cheer and happiness.
Peridot is the birthstone for people born in August and the zodiac sign Leo, the Lion.
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