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Peridot: The Gem of the Sun

Peridot has a rich story that dates back more than 3,500 years. Join us as we deep dive into the history of peridot jewelry.

Posted by Mark Nielsen on

Often called the “volcanic gem,” peridot is born of fire. It typically forms in the rocks created by volcanic activity. Sometimes, peridot is found in meteorites that fall to earth. Regardless of the source, no matter if they are caused in the fiery depths or in rocks from another world, peridot has caught the attention of people for thousands of years.

The color of peridot stone ranges from a dark green to lighter, yellowish-green. You may even see richer shades of olive with this stone. All the colors are used in popular peridot jewelry.

Peridot has a rich history that dates back more than 3,500 years. It was initially mined on the Isle of Serpents, located in the Red Sea. Later, this area was renamed St. John’s Island and it is a historically important source of peridot, which supplied jewelry and gems to rulers in ancient Egypt. Even Cleopatra wore stones from this source.

Where Do Miners Find Peridot Gems?

Peridot is found as irregular nodules (these are rounded rocks featuring peridot crystals in them) in lava flows in several areas, including Vietnam, China, and the United States. Sometimes, they can also be found as large crystals that line the veins or pockets in specific types of solidified molten rock. You can find these stones in areas such as Zabargad, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Finland.

Most geologists believe both deposits relate to the expansion of the seafloor, which occurs when the earth’s crust splits, and the rocks from the mantle are pushed to the surface. In some cases, such as in Myanmar, the rocks are altered, deformed, and then added to mountain ranges by the additional movement of the earth.

Sometimes, as mentioned above, peridot can have an extraterrestrial source. It is found in meteorites that fall to the surface of the earth.

The Chemical Makeup of Peridot 

Peridot is a variety of gem from the mineral olivine. The chemical composition includes magnesium and iron, and iron is what creates beautiful, yellow-green colors. Sometimes, the gem is found in basalts, which are volcanic rocks that are full of these two elements.

Peridot A.K.A. the Sun Stone

For over two millennia, the peridot has been compared and related to light. Ancient Egyptians worshipped this stone, believing they fell from the sky, which is when peridots were referred to as the “gems of the sun.”

Priests in ancient Egypt would crush peridot stones and mix them in hot drinks. They believed that doing this would help to bring them closer to the light of the world. Another name the peridot stone goes by is “the Evening Emerald.” This is because it shines, even at night and in artificial light.

A Mistaken Identity

For many years and in several different situations, peridot was mistakenly classified as an emerald. There is a legend that the collection of emerald jewels owned by Cleopatra were actually peridots. Also, the 200 carats of gems that are found at the Three Holy Kings shrine, thought to be emeralds, were in fact, peridots.

It Was Popular Among the Royals 

In the mid-1800s, the popularity of the peridot stone grew significantly. It reached peak levels of popularity during the Edwardian and Victorian eras when vibrant jewels with colorful gemstones were considered high fashion.

Edward VII of England, who the Edwardian era was named for, enjoyed peridots so much, he stated they were his favorite gemstone. While he only sat on the throne for nine years, the popularity of the peridot continued into the 20th century.

A Greek Theory 

Peridot is commonly called a chrysolite. This is Green for “golden stone.” At the beginning of the 20th century, geologists found samples of chrysolite so often that they developed the theory that there was an olivine layer of rock above the Earth’s core. This is not a substantiated theory; however, it is an interesting one.

It Is Raining Peridots

Peridot formation occurs in extreme conditions. Found deep in the mantle of the earth, violent volcanic eruptions help the stones move the surface or the stones are deposited with magma, close enough to the surface for the stones to be seen and mined.

A recent geological event that highlighted peridots took place when the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupted. This occurred in 2018. After this occurred, people began to discover small “green pebbles,” which were determined to be olivine. Even though these specimens are not gem quality, they are a testament to the long history of peridots in the state.

The Largest Peridot

The biggest cut peridot in the entire world weighs in at around 311 carats. It can be seen in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institute. This cushion shaped stone was found from Zabargad Island, which is in Egypt (mentioned above). There are other impressive peridot forms found in the Russian Diamond Fund. This stone is 192.75 carats.

Peridot Sourced from Meteorites 

Samples of this green gem have been found in meteorites that have crashed into Earth for millions of years. While meteorites have been found with many different types of stones, the samples have been extremely small. In 1979, a meteorite that was found on a Siberian hilltop included a nice surprise – peridot crystals large enough to use for jewelry, which has made this the only outer space gem that you can wear. Even though these gems are used for jewelry, they are nothing you will find in a jewelry store. Instead, they are found in the collections of mineral collectors, meteorite collectors, and scientists.

The Peridot: Now You Know

As anyone can see from the information here, the peridot has an interesting history. If someone has a birthday in the month of August, they will find this stone is their birthstone, giving them the perfect excuse to purchase this stone and enjoy wearing it all the time. However, there is no need to have an August birthday to wear beautiful peridot jewelry. It is a great gem and one that can complement virtually any outfit or look. Try out this stone to see all it has to offer.

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