Peridot August Birthstone – The gem of the Sun

This month we focus on the fascinating Peridot, the birthstone of August.

August’s birthstone is the peridot or olivine. The name peridot is derived from the Arabic word faridat, meaning ‘gem’. The ancient Egyptians called it the ‘gem of the Sun’. More recently it has been called the ‘evening emerald’ because under artificial light it is a vivid shade of green.

Peridot’s history is intrinsically linked to the Egyptian island of St John (Zabargad) in the Red Sea, which was the one of the few ancient sources of the gem. This deposit has been totally exhausted, though fairly significant deposits have since been discovered. In 1994, an exciting deposit of fine peridot was discovered in Pakistan on the west side of the Himalaya Mountains, 4 500 metres above sea level.

Jewels from heaven

Peridot and diamonds are the only gems that are formed in the Earth’s mantle. Peridot is also the only gemstone found in meteors and the first gem to be discovered on another planet. The Mars landing of 2003 revealed that the Red Planet is covered in nearly 50 000 square kilometres of green peridot crystals.

Did you know Mars has huge deposits of Peridot?

Mars has huge deposits of Peridot crystals discovered by a recent mission – The mineral was detected by an instrument on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor.

The intensity and hue of the green depends on how much iron is in the crystal structure, so the colour of individual peridot gems can vary from yellow to olive to a brownish-green. The most valuable is a dark olive-green. In ancient Egypt, the gems were often confused with emeralds.

Legend has it they were Cleopatra’s favourite and that the emeralds worn by her were, in fact, peridots.

In Europe, peridot was first introduced by the Crusaders who brought it back from their crusades. They brought it from Red Sea islands where it had been mined more than 3 000 years ago. Many beautiful peridots made their way back from the Mediterranean during the Crusades and were used to decorate European cathedrals, where they still remain. For centuries, people falsely believed the fabulous 200 carat gems adorning the shrine of the Three Holy Kings in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral were emeralds. Again they are peridots.

The pre-Christian Celtic priests wore this stone for protection. Peridot is believed to bring good health, restful sleep and peace to relationships by calming anger, and balancing emotions and the mind. It’s also said to provide strength, friendship, romance and vitality. This vivid green stone apparently has the ability to inspire eloquence, creativity, delight and bring good cheer.

Caring for your peridot

You should protect peridot from scratching and sharp blows that can fracture or shatter the stone. Also, avoid large temperature changes, ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners could damage the stone.

More about Peridot