Gemstones & Birthstones: Peridot, Just the Facts, Pt I
Gemstone of the Sun, the Egyptians called it. Could anything be more perfect for the birthstone for August, month of summer sun? If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, the beautiful, new-spring-leaf color of peridot makes it just as perfect for the coming spring. Either way, if your birthday is in August, you come up a winner.
ABOVE: 27.32 cts triangle cut peridot from Pakistan. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Palagems.com
Of all the birthstones, however, peridot is the most confusing to pronounce. Yes, it looks like peri-dot (as in dot com). But between eyes and lips, the name undergoes a sweet softening to come out with a French accent, to sound like peri-doe. Easier to remember if you think of a young, leaf-green female deer.
Peridot is the gem quality version of the mineral olivine, which normally you might not care about knowing. Except that olivine is a constituent in volcanic sand. Like the sand in Hawaii. Like the sand, specifically on Papakolea Beach under Mauna Loa on the Big Island. A whole beach covered with tiny bits of your birthstone. Dare anyone else’s birthstone to match that!
While those peridots are literally the size of grains of sand, there are some gem-quality peridots that are definitely not shy about their size, like the one in the photo above.
There is, however, lots of peridot between show-stopping and sand-sized — and perfect for jewelry, like the earrings from Exclusive Jewelry Designs.
Peridot also comes from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Tanzania. But there is a significant deposit of peridot in the United States. It’s mined by the Apache of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. So if you prefer home-grown gems, take the time to search some of these stones out. (For some great photos of these and the mine site, visit Peridot Dreams.)
As a gemologist, I love peridot not only for the color, but for the inclusions. These started as liquid trapped in flat fractures that eventually crystallized. But what makes them so cool is that they are shaped like lily pads. Really. A lily pad in a frog-colored stone. How perfect can it get? (The GIA gem information website has a lovely photo of these.)
You really don’t want to see these lovely inclusions with the unaided eye, though, as they can reflect light and look dark, detracting from the beauty of the stone. (Peridot can also contain small black crystals that can take away from its appearance if there are too many and they are too visible.) But there is nothing more delightful than looking through a scope and seeing one of these lily pads floating in a sea of green.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing on gemstone and jewelry topics for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of Birthstone Romances under the name Liz Hartley.
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