Friday, July 26, 2013

Gemstone Highlights: Peridot




What is it?

Peridot is from the French word "peritot" meaning gold, because the mineral can vary towards that color. As the best known variety of olivine, this gemstone has been fancied for thousands of years. Medium to dark green in color, with a more velvety color than the green emerald, the gem actually has at least 15 acceptable shades, However, the vivid lime green is the most valued color.  Peridot is a silicate mineral that is rich in magnesium. The micro-crystals that form the stone usually occur as rounded pebbles. Its luster is glassy, and the Moh's Scale rates peridot's hardness as 6.5 - 7 with quartz (7) able to scratch it.


The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., houses the largest cut peridot, a 310 carat gem (2.187 oz).

Ancient uses.

Peridot was formally known as chrysolite, and also as the "poor man's emerald."  It is purported that some of Cleopatra's emeralds were actually peridot and olivine.

Peridot is one of the oldest gemstones with records documenting them as early as 1500 B.C.

The Romans called peridot the "Evening Emerald" because its color did not darken at night but was still visible by lamplight. Medieval churches in Europe were decorated peridot brought back by the Crusaders.  Large peridots adorn the shrine of the three magi at Cologne Cathedral. 

Egyptians called the gemstone "The Gem of the Sun"  because it was too bright to be visible in the sunny desert. Used as carved talisman, the inhabitants of Topazo Island (now St. John's Island in the Egyptian Red Sea) were forced to collect peridot for the Pharaoh's treasury. It is the national gem of Egypt.

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Peridot is the traditional birthstone for August, as well as the 16th Anniversary stone.

Where is it found?
The prime source of peridot was in Burma prior to 1962. Geologists agree that the best and largest gems come from Pakistan. A large source was discovered on a reservation in Arizona.  Other mines around the world include China, Norway, Australia, Vietnam, Brazil, Hawaii and the Congo.
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Most gems are formed in the earth's crust, but the gemstones peridot and diamond are the exceptions. Peridot is formed in the earth's mantle about 20 to 55 miles deep and is brought to the surface by tectonic or volcanic activity.  For contrast, the diamond is much deeper in the mantle at 100 to 150 miles below the surface.

Interestingly, peridot crystals are the only gemstone collected from Pallasite meteorites.

Care of jewelry.

Cleaning your peridot is simple. Use warm, soapy water and pat dry with a soft, dry cloth.  Make sure that your peridot does not come in contact with drastic temperature changes which will damage it. Also, peridots were lose their luster if exposed to hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Protect your stone from scratches, chemicals and hard blows.  Do not clean them in ultrasonic or steam cleaners.

Folklore & Mystic.

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Peridot was believed to have strong magical powers, especially if it is set in gold. Said to have the power to protect the wearer from evil spirits, the evil eye, nightmares and fears, it was also used to dissolve enchantments. Other legends include its ability to bring happiness, cheer, attract lovers and strengthen the eyes. Medicinally, peridot was crushed and consumed as a treatment for asthma. A manuscript from 1502 related the practice of a peridot carved with the image of a donkey (ass) to help a person with a skill or prophesy.

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Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peridot
http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/gemstones/sp14-95/peridot.html
http://www.jewelsforme.com/peridot-history.asp
http://www.gemselect.com/other-info/history-peridot.php
http://www.echinastone.com/gemstones/learn/articles/peridot_story_known_facts.html

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