Ever since I was a fledgling magpie I’ve loved lime green as a colour. In fact I had the walls in my first solo bedroom painted lime green and I must have been about 8, so it’s been my thing for a very long time! No surprise then that every time I go into the stock tray for something, the little peridot ring we have in there catches and holds my eye. One day I’ll give in and buy it, probably, but in the meantime finding out about peridot seems an obvious choice of research for me.
The first thing I know about peridot is that it’s enjoying a real surge in popularity for some reason, but perhaps that’s just because it’s August as I write this, and Peridot is the birthdstone of August… but I read a lot about what’s going on in the jewellery world and everywhere I turn there are articles about peridot and the jewellers who are embracing it as their new fave gem, any time of year. The other things I know about it are that it’s magnetic and has a slight glow in the dark effect – not sure where I picked that up, but it’s true! – but other than that I don’t know much so I went digging.
Like many of the gems I write about, peridot has been mined and used in jewellery for milennia, and not only did the Egyptians love it (it is their national stone) but so did the Romans and the Greeks. The very best peridot ever mined came from the Egyptian island of Zabargad in the Red sea and there’s a bit of disagreement in Gemologyland about whether it was mined by the Egyptians or not until much later, and in much smaller quantities than some think. Anyway, whether it was a lot or a little, it was the best, and Cleopatra loved it. As an aside there’s also some debate about whether Cleopatra’s green stones were emerald or peridot because the very best peridot is dark, rich green (I did not know this) and can easily be confused with emeralds, but as emeralds were mined in Egypt I’m siding with the guy who says her jewels were in fact emeralds and not peridot because his work on the subject is well researched and well written. There is one famous case of mistaken identity that everyone agrees on though, and that is that the green gems in the shrine of the Three Kings in Cologn Cathedral are in fact peridot and not emerald.
But I digress… Zabargad no longer really produces peridot because there’s no fresh water source there which makes it impossible long term, and besides peridot (aka chrysolite, aka olivine) is mined on almost every other continent so supply is not limited.
Interestingly peridot is one of only two gems – the other is diamond – that are formed in the upper mantle of the earth rather than in the earth’s crust like other gems and minerals, and it is pushed to the surface by volcanic action which explains why it’s so prevelent in volcanic areas, obviously. In Hawaii, for instance, there’s so much peridot in the lava that is spewed out regularly that they actually have several green beaches! And the other place that peridot has been found, to everyone’s amazement, is in meteorites. NASA’s explorer, ‘Stardust’ brought back particles of gem quality peridot which are probably as old as our solar system. The Hambleton meteorite that was found in North Yorkshire in 2005 was said to look ‘a bit like fruit cake’ when it was cut in half, the fruit being peridot crystals. No wonder then that the Egyptians believed that peridot was sent to earth by an explosion of a star, and that peridot was known to the ancients as ‘the gem of the sun’. But we have to rely on terrestrial sources for our peridot, and the best peridot now comes from Myanmar and more recently from the Himalayas in Pakistan. More plentiful and commercial peridot comes from the US, China and Africa but the best of this by far comes from Arizona which produces really high quality material. Other almost stand-alone facts about peridot are that unlike most gems it is not heat treated because it comes out of the ground bright and clear and ready for cutting and polishing. And while all gems can be manufactured, fake peridot is more difficult to disguise because the real deal has a double refraction aspect which means that it is extraordinarily bright, and when
it’s been cut there will be two of each pavillion facet which can be seen with the naked eye. If there’s still any doubt about its authenticity then with strong magnification the reflective disc shaped inclusions found in peridot, called lilypads, confirm its identity. Actually, reading back over all these facts, peridot really is quite a remarkable stone. I’ve underrated it.
Every time I research gems I always read the mythology attached to them, and more often than not all the different sources I read credit the particular gem I’m researching with all sorts of different mythological properties. It makes me think that all gems should be worn, all the time, because collectively they ward off all evils and/or encourage all positive energies. But in my research on peridot the mythology attached to the stone has been pretty consistent – it wards off night frights; nightmares, restless sleep etc and induces a calming and brightening of the mind (which arm it should be worn on has not been agreed however…) So it seems to me that as a mapgie prone to restless sleep and vivid dreams, I should stop procrastinating about the little peridot in the stock tray, and if only for my own health I should buy it and wear it. Actully, perhaps I should have two – one for each hand, just to be sure.