The vivid green of peridot, with just a slight hint of gold, is the ideal gemstone colour to go with that light summer wardrobe. No wonder – since peridot is the gemstone of the summer month of August.
Peridot is a very old gemstone, and one which has become popular again today. It can be found in Egyptian jewellery from the early 2nd millennium BC. The stones used at that time came from a deposit on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, some 45 miles off the Egyptian coast at Aswan. This was not rediscovered until about 1900 and has subsequently been exhausted. On the other hand peridot is a thoroughly modern gemstone. It is only relatively recently that peridot deposits were located in the Kashmir region, with the stones from those deposits, being of an incomparably beautiful colour and transparency.
The ancient Romans were fond of this peridot and valued its radiant green shine, which does not change even in artificial light. For that reason they nicknamed it the 'emerald of the evening'. Peridot is also found in Europe in medieval churches, where it adorns many a treasure, for example one of the shrines in Cologne Cathedral. During the baroque period, the rich green gemstone once again enjoyed a brief heyday, and then it somehow faded into oblivion.
In the middle of the 1990s, the peridot was the big sensation at gemstone fairs all round the world. The reason for this was that in Pakistan, up on an inhospitable pass at some 4000 metres (13,120 ft.), a sensationally rich deposit of the finest peridot had been found. In tough climatic conditions which permitted the gemstones to be mined only during the summer months, the unusually large, fine crystals and fragments were brought down into the valley. These stones were finer than anything that had ever been seen before. In order to emphasise the special quality of the peridot from Pakistan, these stones are offered as 'Kashmir peridot', following the famous Kashmir sapphires. Creative gemstone cutters have succeeded in cutting some fascinatingly beautiful one-off stones of more than 100 carats from some of the large, fine, clear crystals with their magnificent rich green!
Peridot has no fewer than three names: 'peridot', 'chrysolite', from the Greek 'gold stone', and 'olivine', for the peridot is the gemstone form of the mineral olivine. In the gemstone trade it is called 'peridot', derived from the Greek word 'peridona', which means something like 'to give richness'.
Peridot is one of the few gemstones which come in one colour only. The rich, green colour with the slight tinge of gold is caused by very fine traces of iron. From a chemical point of view, peridot is an iron magnesium silicate. The intensity of the colour depends on the amount of iron present. The colour itself can vary over all shades of yellowish green and olive, and even to a brownish green. Peridot is not particularly hard - only 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale - but it is easy to look after and fairly robust. Peridot cat's eyes and star peridot are particularly rare and precious.
The most beautiful stones come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the peridot as a gemstone also exists in Myanmar, China, the USA, Africa and Australia. Stones from East Burma, now known as Myanmar, have a vivid light green and fine inclusions with a silky shine to them. Peridot from Arizona, where it is popularly used in native American jewellery, often has somewhat yellowish or gold-brown nuances.
Peridot adds a wonderful variant to the colour spectrum of green gemstones.