You may have noticed that gemstones always have myths and legends around them but one story about the peridot makes me smile. It goes like this; the very first known peridot happened to belong to a secretive pirate a long, long, long time ago. It was supposedly the most valuable part of his loot! As was common for sea faring men of that age, the pirate disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Unfortunately he had his mysterious green gemstone with him. Noone knew where he had found it or if there were more so the gemstone was 'lost' for centuries upon centuries.. Stories of a gemstone that sparkled like the sun were passed on and on until it was found by the Egyptians about 3500 years ago on an island in the Red Sea called St Johns.
For some reason the clear sparkling tones of this August gemstone cheer me immensely. Perhaps because in this part of the world , the chilly grey days of winter are are on their way out when the calendar hits 1 August.
I am endlessly intrigued by the little inclusions you find inside only peridots, they are shaped just like lily pads! When your mind is on summer, it's not much of a leap from lily-pad shaped inclusions and sparkling chartreuse hues to shimmering bodies of water with lily-pads under perfect blue skies.
So to me Peridot is the gemstone that heralds summer.
Peridot inclusions under a microscope
If you are a gemstone lover you may know that polished gemstones are split into 2 main groups: Cabochon and faceted. Cabochons are basically smooth cut and rounded with a smooth dome more often than not. Whereas faceted cuts have many little facets that act as mirrors for light to bounce from. So they sparkle and seem to throw off light when you move them.
Cabochon Cut peridots Faceted Peridots
Peridots are one of the not so many stones that pull off beautiful in both either cabochon or faceted cut. Holding and looking into a Cabochon cut peridot feels like looking into sparkling clean waters with an apple hue.
With a very high birefringence and a distinct oily lustre, peridots make a rather delectable treat for the eye! Little wonder the ancient Egyptians called it the 'gem of the sun'. They are the only other gemstone apart from diamonds that come from deep inside the earth. They are delivered to the surface by volcano. Occasionally, very rarely they are delivered to the earth via pallasite (made of nickel-iron and olivine) meteorites.
Transparent peridots can be seen scattered throughout this pallasite meteorite. Photo: Eric Welch/GIA. Courtesy: Magic Mountain Gems
In terms of hardness and toughness peridots are a little soft; 6.5 on Moh's scale. They should be treated with care. Really best left for jewellery other than rings. Such as this necklace.
The beauty of peridot has long been prized by powerful men and kings; in fact historians believe that Cleopatra's emeralds were actually peridots. The mistake is understandable granted that peridots come in various shades of green. Even now they are sometimes called 'evening emerald'.