Peridot, the gem form of the mineral olivine, traces its jewelry roots back more than 3,500 years. It was first mined by the ancient Egyptians on the island of Zebargad in the Red Sea. Zebargad was known as the “serpent isle” because it was infested with snakes that interfered with mining activity until one Pharaoh finally had them all driven into the sea.
Found in various shades of green, peridot is most prized in lime hues. The Romans called peridot “evening emerald” because they thought it glowed at night. The gem was also used to decorate medieval churches and was most likely carried back to Europe by the Crusaders.
The ancients believed that peridot had the power to ward off evil spirits, nightmares and enchantments. It was also used as a medical remedy to treat asthma and other ailments. Peridot was also said to strengthen any medicine drunk from goblets carved from the stone.
Most of today’s peridot is mined by Native Americans on the Carlos Reservation in Arizona. It is also mined in Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Hawaii, Italy, Norway, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
The finest stones are eye clean and have a deep, lime green color. Because inclusions are common, clarity is an extremely important factor when buying peridot.
When shopping for peridot, keep in mind that it is relatively soft (6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale) and should be spared rugged, regular wear if mounted in a ring. It is also highly sensitive to rapid temperature changes and can lose its polish if brought into contact with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.