Peridot: The August Birthstone (and more!)

Peridot: The original birthstone for the month of August (spinel has now joined it as the month’s birthstone), Peridot may also be one of the most commonly mispronounced popular gems (looking at you too, chalcedony). Doing a quick Google search on peridot, Google tells me that it is pronounced “pere-dät”, ending with, “DOT”. According to GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) and most, if not all jewelers I have met, this gemstone name is correctly pronounced, “per-eh-DOE” or “pear-a-DOE”. Sorry, Goog.

Peridot Pronunciation

(I won’t get started on the use of “semi-precious” either, that is a story for another day.)

Historically, and dating back many hundreds of years, all green stones were considered emerald, all blue stones were sapphire and all red stones were ruby (kind of boring right?). Once gems began to be separated by class and mineral, peridot first found itself thrown into the topaz category, before it was recognized as a gem mineral in and of itself. Even more recently, the color grades for most gemstones were based on the purity of color and how much a gem looked like these popular stones. So the greener a green gemstone and the more it looked like an emerald, the more valuable. Gemstone grading has evolved a lot since then, but the value of a gemstone is still rooted in the comparison to these so-called “precious” stones.

Peridot’s color is described as yellowish green, and will never come close to emerald’s deep green hue. Some lower quality peridots can have a grayish or brownish cast, or even a milky appearance. Some of the most stunning gems I have seen and worked with come from Pakistan and have a brilliant, spring green color. Like many gemstones, in smaller sizes peridot looks very light and more yellow but in larger sizes this stone can have a bright, vivid “sunny” green color. I have always described the reason for this by using the example of a large cobalt blue glass vase, the vase itself is a rich, deep, blue color, but if you were to chip off a small shard of glass, it would be more of a sky blue. For the same reason, smaller gemstones do not have the depth of color that larger ones can. The photo below shows an example of vibrant Pakistani peridot and also shows the stone’s double refraction.

Peridot Oval Faceted

photo by Daniel McMorris

Peridot is not a gemstone that is exceptionally hard nor tough. It is not a great ring for every day, even in a protected setting, as the stone is easily scratched. Larger stones and those in prong settings in rings should be worn with care.

Interesting Peridot facts:

  1. Peridot crystals have been found in meteorites that have hit the earth, however such specimens are rare. Most commercially available peridot is mined on planet earth.
  2. The largest peridot ever found was on Saint John’s Island, also known as Zabargad, in the Red Sea. It weighs just over 311 carats and is on display in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
  3. Some of the beaches on the island of Oahu, Hawaii contain tiny peridot crystals and some of Hawaii’s volcanoes have produced peridot crystals large enough to cut.

 

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