Peridot the Olive Gemstone from Antiquity Thats Enjoying a Renaissance

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about the gemstone peridot, its history and why it is making a revival.

Peridot: sometimes referred to as green gold because of its olive color with golden tones, this gemstone is a member of the olivine family as are feldspars and garnets. However peridot is the only gem to have one color. Peridot is one of the oldest gemstones and was first discovered by the Egyptians on the island of Zabargard ( St.Johns) in the Red Sea . And many experts believe Cleopatra’s precious jewel collection contained peridot instead of emeralds.

The original name for the island was topazian and for this reason peridot was originally called topaz. After the crusaders brought peridot to Europe it was became revered by the church and was often used for ceremonial purposes. Peridot sometimes became confused with emeralds or was used as a substitute for the more valuable gemstone. The use of peridot was heightened in the baroque period because its green color suited the period. The Russian royal jewelry collection included some of the largest peridot stones.

In 1749 peridot was discovered in a meteorite that had landed in Siberia. The stones were used to make jewelry. And in 2008 a meteorite that contains peridot went on sale at Bonhams for 3 million dollars. No other precious stones are found in meteorites, proving that peridots really are out of this world. In 1909 supplies of peridot had been exhausted and the mines on the island of Zabargard (Egypt) were closed. Peridot became unavailable and so fell out of vogue. However significant discoveries during the 1990’s in Suppart, Pakistan and finds in Arendal, Norway and San Carlos Arizona, have made peridot accessible again and their popularity is increasing. Peridot is also found in Myanmar, China, Minas Gerais Brazil, Queensland Australia and South Africa. Peridot from Kashmir India is known as Kashmir peridot following in the prominence of Kashmir sapphires.

The island of Zabagard in the Red Sea, where peridot was first disovered.

Peridot is suitable for jewelry and is often accompanied with other colored gemstones such as amethyst and tourmaline as its color contrasts well. However is isn’t as hard as most other gemstones, in fact its hardness is between 6-7 on the Mohs scale as compared with say, ruby at a scale of 8. The olive green color of peridot is caused by magnesium-iron silicate and it forms in igneous rock during liquid magmatic phase. This interaction even helped the formation of diamonds.

The shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral.

Famous peridot gemstones

The state treasury of Russia at the Kremlin has one of the largest peridot stones at 192.60 carats. It is set in a pendant surrounded by diamonds. The collection also has an impressive brooch and other peridot jewelry. The Three Magi Shrine (three kings) at the Cathedral of Cologne is decorated with large peridot gemstones.

Photos from commons.wikimedia

2 comments

eileen szydlowski
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Posted on Apr 14, 2010
Johnny Dod
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Posted on Apr 14, 2010