Peridot: August’s intriguing birthstone

Peridot is acknowledged as the birthstone for August, and is an enchanting gem that boasts covetable lime green, almost neon, colour. This striking appearance means that - while it is not one of the traditional gemstones to see in fine jewellery, peridot is certainly always eye-catching.

The roots of the gemstone's name are uncertain, but one theory proffers that its beginnings lie in its alternate title, chrysolite from the Ancient Greek 'chrysos' - gold and 'lithos' - stone. Another version suggests that it is named after the French word 'peritot', meaning gold, because the mineral can lean towards this colour. Owing to this etymology, since ancient times the peridot has been considered a tradesman’s stone - likely because of its associations with the word ‘gold’. In the middle ages, the stone was considered a talisman for hope, and today, the peridot remains the National gem of Egypt.

Marina B. choker with peridot, citrine, pearls and diamonds in yellow gold

The first proof of mining peridot can be found In the ancient world - about 300 B.C - on St. John's Island (often known as it’s Egyptian name: Zagrabad) in the Red Sea. Now, the principal source of peridot is the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and apart from being mined in some US locations, it can be found in some other countries globally. The most famous and productive peridot mine is still St. John's Island, because it yields especially large crystals. Incidentally, the largest cut peridot in the world is 310 carats, and currently displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. amongst other record-breaking gems.

Michelle Dela Valle brooch with peridot and diamonds in yellow gold

The intensity and saturation of the peridot’s olive green colour and tint of the green tone depend on the percentage of iron in the crystal structure; meaning that peridot can vary from yellow to olive, to brownish-green, or a bright neon green. Peridot is sometimes called a ‘poor man’s emerald’ or an ‘evening emerald’ because its yellow hue disappears under artificial light, meaning that in darker settings the stone looks greener. However, don't be fooled by the monikers it has been given, peridot is not a gem for the poor, it even reaches the status of a collectible gemstone if a faceted mineral exceeds 8 carats in weight and has minimum inclusions.

Step cut is the most common cut among peridots as it helps to reduce the risk of any damage to the stone, while cabochons are cut to improve the appearance of the gemstone’s colour saturation. When dreaming up their collections, jewellers take into consideration that the peridot is not a particularly hard gemstone, reaching between 6.5 and 7 on the Mohs scale. Owing to this relative softness, peridot is considered difficult to polish, and symbiotically easy to scratch when setting it in jewellery.

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