Peridot Gemstones: It's So Easy Being Green


Sometimes it's not easy being green when it comes to the peridot gemstone. The stone is often confused with the emerald (even Cleopatra was confused), and its name's pronunciation is often debated. Despite these minor challenges, the peridot is a popular gemstone that has been used in jewelry for thousands of years. Those in Ancient Egypt referred to it as the "gem of the sun," and holy men thought peridots warded off nightmares and evil. Today, peridot is Egypt's National Gem. It holds rank as one of the oldest stones ever mined (as far back as 1500 B.C.), and it's found in such diverse areas as space (near the sun, to be exact) and Antarctica.

Collage of Peridot Jewelry Tile #1 Collage of Peridot Jewelry Tile #2

Where Are Peridot Gemstones Found?

While the Earth's crust is home to most gemstones, the lime-green peridot stone forms in the Earth's upper mantle, which is the area that lies between the Earth's hot core and its thin crust. The stones are naturally "mined" and brought to the surface when there's volcanic activity. For this reason, peridot gemstones are rare and unique; no other stone forms in lava flows 25 miles below the Earth's surface.

Peridots were originally found on a small volcanic island in the middle of the Red Sea. However, the island went untouched for many years and it was rediscovered in the early 1900's.

Some peridots stones are found high above the Earth's surface. These "extraterrestrial" gems are created inside meteorites called pallasites. One of the most famous for producing gem-quality peridot was the Esquel meteorite that fell to Earth in Argentina roughly 50 years ago. These out-of-space encounters are rare, and most earth-based gemstones are in China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam. In the United States, Arizona is the leading source of peridot, with most stones found on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.


What Color Is a Peridot Gemstone?

Peridot gemstones are a summery green color, ranging from olive to brownish-green to a yellow-green citrus color. (The latter color is the most common color used for jewelry.) The Romans nicknamed it the "evening emerald" stone because its color stayed constant even in dim light. But despite this, peridots are considered pleochroic, which means you will see different shades from different angles. And here's a fun fact: peridots were often confused for emeralds, despite having a much deeper crystal green than peridots. For example, Cleopatra's prized "emeralds" are now thought to be peridots mined in Egypt.

While most gemstones get their color from impurities that affect the stone itself, a peridot's color comes from its chemical composition, a combination of iron and magnesium. (Volcanic rocks—where peridot gemstones form—are rich with these two minerals.) The depth and shade of green in the stone are dependent on how much iron is present—and the deeper the green means very little iron.

How Do You Pronounce Peridot?

The word peridot was very popular in ancient times and has three different origins. In Greece, it came from word peridona which translates as "to give richness". In Arabic, it came from the word faridat hich means "gem," and in Europe it was derived from the French word peritÔt, which means "unclear" due to the elusive properties of the gemstone. In some parts, it was known as Chrysolite, which means "gold stone", though this term was less common.

The pronunciation of "peridot" is a hotly debated topic for some. The word has two pronunciations in the dictionary—"PAIR-uh-doe" and "PAIR-uh-dot." Why? Because no one can tell the etymology of the word. If the word is French, then the pronunciation would be "PAIR-uh-doe," which jewelers prefer. However, here's the rub: American miners first found peridot in a small town called Peridot, Arizona. Soon, the pronunciation became "PAIR-uh-dot"; even the town took on the gem's name and pronunciation. In the end, there were two pronunciations: the one preferred by jewelers and the "Americanized" version.

How is Peridot Formed?

Peridot is a volcanic gem found in the Earth's mantle—where lava lives—between the crust and core. There, the stone's crystals grow in hot flowing magma. The volcanic rock in which peridots grow is a silica-deficient igneous rock called basalt. When there's volcanic or tectonic activity, the basalt rocks with the peridot crystals are pushed to the surface.

What Month is Peridot Birthstone?

Happy Birthday to all of you born in August! You get to celebrate with Martha Stewart, Halle Berry, Madonna, and Cameron Diaz.

The stone represents compassion, brings about good health and peace, and purifies the heart for those who wear it. Also known as the "stone of compassion," peridot is considered a traditional 16th wedding anniversary gift.

Since the first century, it has also been believed that birthstones line up with the signs of the Zodiac. Peridot, therefore, is associated with the traits of the Leo sign, or "The Lion," possessing the power to inspire great courage, confidence, and charisma. Some would say the Leos naturally contain these characteristics and that wearing peridot can enhance them or bring them out of dormancy. Even if you don't believe this to be true, you can still wear the August birthstone as an expression of these traits or to remind yourself to be brave and true.


What Are Some Types of Peridot Gemstones?

Peridot is reputed to inspire eloquence, creativity and to bring delight whether in the form of earrings, bracelets, necklaces or even peridot rings. There are several different styles of cut peridot, and each stone has its unique look and value.

  • Burmese Peridot — Found in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, this particular stone is usually large, well-cut, and has an apple green color.
  • Green Peridot — An all-around generic name for peridots, this phrase also lends to the emerald confusion. When shopping, always keep in mind that genuine peridots are much different from emeralds when it comes to composition, what they look like, and how much they cost.
  • Hebei Peridot — This variety is from China in a province of the same name. The most significant difference from the other peridot varieties is that Hebei is chartreuse with yellow undertones.
  • Changbai Peridot — Found in the Changbai province of China, this variety of peridot is considered the finest quality and most valuable. The vibrant green color makes this stone stunning.
  • Vietnamese Peridot — Vietnam is a significant source of the gemstone, and the region produces a variety of green shades ranging from light yellowish green to olive brownish-green. The Vietnamese peridot is a popular choice to buy.

How To Tell if a Peridot Gemstone is Real

Yes, fake peridots exist, but it's relatively easy to spot an imitation (they comprise primarily of glass). The best way to tell if the stone is a fake is to examine the stone's color under different lights. Remember that a peridot's brilliant green color doesn't change, regardless of the light. Bright light, dim light, artificial light—only genuine peridot will remain a shimmery green throughout.

With that said, below are a couple of additional tips to check when looking for genuine peridot.

Double Refraction — Peridot has strong double refraction, which means light can split when shown through the gem. If you hold the rock against a light and don't see its double refraction, then you probably have a fake.

Genuine Imperfections — Peridot has a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, so it can get scratched if not correctly cared for. Genuine peridot has inclusions and internal fractures, so if your gemstone looks clean and perfect under magnification, it's probably not real. (However, if you see bubbles in the stone, it's perhaps not an authentic stone, either—bubbles often indicate glass.)

Is Peridot Expensive? — The value of peridot depends on color, carat, and cut. With that said, the typical price range for stones can range anywhere from $50 to more than $500.

The Color of Green — Green equals money when it comes to peridot gems. How deep and rich the green color is in peridot is a big factor in the stone value. The more saturated the color, the fewer inclusions you'll see, and the higher price you'll pay. The three components that make up a peridot's color are hue, which is the first impression of the color; saturation, which determines the lightness and darkness; and the tone which determines in intensity. The peridot that has the greatest value is normally pure green with no other colors. And be aware of stones that exhibit a brown tint—these are considered low quality.

The Carat Weight — A general rule with peridot stones: the prices increase when they are 10 carats or more.

Peridot Cuts — The cuts for peridot gemstones range from round, cushion, and oval, to princess, pear, and emerald. (Emerald and round cuts work best to support the peridot's crystal structure and are the most popular.)


Cleaning and Caring For Your Peridot Jewelry

Peridot is pretty durable, but take care to avoid activities that would scratch or knock the gem against something hard, or else it may shatter. Remember to remove your peridot jewelry before doing heavy, rugged work. Below are additional tips for care and cleaning:

  • Cleaning the gem is relatively easy—warm, soapy water is your best bet.
  • Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners. The vibration and high temperature can damage the stone.
  • After gently washing your peridot, rinse the gem in clean, warm water. Let it air dry instead of using a cloth.
  • When storing your peridot, be sure to keep it apart from other jewelry and stones to avoid scratching or knocking against each other.

Facts and Myths About Peridot Gemstones

Stay golden. A legend says that by setting peridot in gold, the stone acts as a talisman and uses its powers to eliminate terrible visions and nightmares.

Left is right. Are you being bothered by malevolent entities? During the Middle Ages, it was believed that you could ward off evil spirits by wearing peridot jewelry on your left arm.

The moon isn't made of cheese. However, scientists do think that peridot comprises a good portion of the moon's mantle.

Pele's tears. Peridot is a sacred gem in Hawaii—the stone represents the tears of Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes.

Better than counseling. Peridot is thought to evoke peace and positivity and help heal damaged or strained marriages and other relationships.

The original cure-all. For thousands of years, apothecary shops stocked their shelves with the powdered version of peridot, saying that it cured respiratory ailments. It also seemed to help those who had insomnia, experienced excessive bleeding, and endured nightmares. What a wonder drug!