Peridot

Popular from antiquity up to the Middle Ages, before being forgotten, Peridot regained popularity in the 1990's thanks to the discovery of new veins containing gemstones beyond compare. Even if it doesn't reach the high prices of emerald, Peridot enchants lovers of gemstones with its beautiful green colour and hints of gold. This bright, lime green colour is the hallmark of Peridot.

The colour of most gemstones comes from traces of other elements, but that of Peridot is entirely due to its chemical composition. It is an “idiochromatic” gem, meaning that its colour is generated by the crystalline structure of the mineral itself and not by impurities; as a result it is only found in diverse shades of green, making it one of the rare gemstones to only exist in a single colour.

Its rich green tint, enhanced with a light touch of gold, is caused by the presence of iron. Chemically, Peridot is no more than a magnesium and iron silicate. The intensity of its colour depends on the amount of iron it contains. It can present every shade from yellow green to olive green, or even brownish green. The most colourful Peridots contain 10 to 15 per cent of iron along with traces of nickel and chrome which also enhance the colour.

Peridot History

The name “Peridot” signifies “golden stone” in Greek (peridona); it is also derived from the French “péritot”, meaning “unclear” because of the typical inclusions found in this gemstone. According to other sources, it stems from the Arab word, “faridat”, which means “gemstone” or “pearl”.

Peridot is a very old gemstone, found in Egyptian jewels dating back as far as the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The gemstones used at that time came from a vein located on a tiny volcanic island named Zabargad in the Red Sea, 26 km off the Egyptian coast of Assouan. Peridot is mentioned in many manuscripts of ancient civilisations. It is found in many legends and stories. Peridot has often been confused with other gemstones, including emerald. Many “emeralds” found in royal treasure-troves have turned out to be Peridots.

The Ancient Romans greatly admired this gemstone for its shining green rays, unchanging even under artificial light. For this reason they gave it the name of “evening emerald”. Legend tells us that Peridot was Cleopatra's favourite gem. In Europe, Peridot was almost certainly introduced by Crusaders. It is found in mediaeval churches, where it decorated many treasures, such as the Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne cathedral, which contains large Peridots of more than 200 carats. However, legend also says that the Crusaders never discovered the vein in Zabargad, so closely was the secret guarded. During the Baroque period, this deep green gemstone enjoyed a new, although brief, moment of glory, before falling gradually out of fashion. Nonetheless, Napoleon offered a Peridot to the Empress Josephine as assurance of his eternal love and admiration – this was, of course, before he annulled their marriage.

Peridot has long been considered a talisman, and has an old reputation for mystical powers. According to ancient beliefs, it was a gift from Mother Nature, celebrating the annual creation of a new world. In olden days, leaders who wore Peridots were reputed to be just and wise.

Peridot Origins and Sources

Peridot is a variant of olivine, which itself is a mixture of two minerals: forsterite and fayalite. These minerals feature significantly in the composition of the earth’s mantle, the layer located just below the external crust. While olivine is very abundant, Peridot in gemstone quality is, in fact, relatively rare.

Its beauty comes as a result of extreme conditions. Most gemstones of mineral origin come from the Earth’s crust, with two exceptions: Peridot and diamond, which are formed much further down, at a depth of between 30 and 90 km, and at extreme temperature and pressure levels, coming up to the surface as a result of tectonic or volcanic activity. That is why they are found in volcanic rock, but also sometimes in meteors that fall to Earth, such as the one in Siberia in the 18th century.

Today 80% to 90% of all Peridots are extracted from the mine of the Apache de San Carlos reserve in GilaCounty and from BuellPark in ApacheCounty in Arizona (U.S.A.). The gemstones found in this region are beautifully coloured, but are relatively small in size. Once cut, the Arizona Peridot rarely weighs more than five carats. It is said to be of “commercial quality”.

The Peridot was quite out of fashion when, in the mid 1990’s, it made a comeback, causing a sensation at jewellery fairs worldwide. The reason for this was the discovery in Pakistan in 1994 of a tremendously rich vein of the finest Peridots, near an inhospitable pass at an altitude of 4,500 m in the Kashmir region at the western limit of the Himalayas. These crystals, of exceptional size and finesse, are extracted and brought down to the valley in difficult climactic conditions, which mean that the vein can only be mined during the summer months. These gems are incomparable in terms of colour and transparency and they have been instrumental in restoring the image of this beautiful gemstone, an image that had been somewhat tarnished for centuries.

In order to set apart the high quality of these Pakistani Peridots, they have been given the title “Kashmir Peridots”, a name inspired by the renowned Kashmir Sapphires. Jewellers have succeeded in cutting certain unique stones of a rare beauty, and of more than 100 carats, from magnificent green crystals.

Some very handsome specimens have also been extracted in the Mogok region, in the north of Myanmar (Burma) and a good number come from Chinese mines. They are also found in Vietnam, Australia (Queensland), Brazil (Minas Gerais), Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Peridot Value

Peridot adds a marvellous variant to the green gemstone colour spectrum. Ever since the world of fashion has found a renewed love for the colour green, the popularity of this intensely green gemstone has also been on the upswing.

Thanks to the recent discoveries in Pakistan, there is now an abundance of raw material on the market and it is easy to find “the right stone” to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Having said that, good-sized stones that are very transparent and of an intense colour, are rare and therefore that much more expensive. Natural Peridots of the finest quality, with a green that holds no hint of yellow or brown, are those that have the highest value.

As with most gemstones, inclusions will diminish a Peridot’s value. The most typical inclusions in Peridots, described as “lily pads”, are grains of biotite.

The value of a Peridot increases with its size. Gemstones whose weight is less than three carats are quite affordable. The price, however, increases exponentially over five carats. Those that are over ten to fifteen carats are rare, but they create a stunning effect at a relatively reasonable cost.

Peridots are rarely subjected to treatment. One could even go so far as to say that they almost never are. If, despite this, the gemstone has been treated, it will be with heat, with a view to enhancing its colour.