The ancient Egyptians called peridot the “gem of the sun.” Associated with light, the gem-quality olivine is traditionally said to ward off terror and demons. In modern times, the peridot’s vivid electric-green hue makes it the perfect summer adornment. No need to be born in August.
Mentioned in the Bible under the name of Chrysolite, Peridot has been mined as a gemstone for thousands of years. Earliest recorded production dates back to 70 A.D., from St. Johns Island in the Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. But peridot’s allure dates back even further. Some historians believe Cleopatra’s famous “emerald” collection may have in fact been peridot. The 200 carats worth of gems in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral shrine of the Three Holy Kings were long thought to be emeralds—they are peridots.
Unlike emeralds, peridots can come from truly exotic locales. The mineral silicate can be found in lava and Pallasite meteorites. A famous Pallasite was auctioned in 2008 with a requested price of nearly $3 million at Bonhams, but remained unsold.
One of the world’s only single-color gemstones, peridot’s olive-green color depends on the amount of iron contained in its crystal structure. The largest cut peridot is 310 carats and is housed in the Smithsonian. Peridots of two or three carats are expensive, and a fine eight-carat stone is considered extremely rare.
Most of the earliest known peridot gems came from St. Johns Island, and small amounts of material are still being produced from there today. Today, the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona produces 80-95 percent of the world’s peridot, where exclusive mining rights are held by various Apache families. Peridot olivine is also mined in Arkansas, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and in Australia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Brazil, China, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
In addition, to being the August birthstone, peridot is the traditional 16th wedding anniversary gift. But there’s no need to wait for sixteen years to enjoy a historic gem that reflects such light and beauty.