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August Birthstone - Peridot

16th Anniversary


 Called “the gem of the sun,” Peridot, the national gem of Egypt, was mined for over 3,500 years on St. Johns Island (also known as Zabargad).

At one point, the island’s exact whereabouts became a mystery for several centuries until being rediscovered in 1905. Joel Aram, author of Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones 2nd Edition, writes “Zabargad is an island in the Red Sea that is often shrouded in fog, making it difficult for ancient navigators to find. The location has been lost in fact, for centuries, and was rediscovered in about 1905. The island is located 35 miles of the Egyptian coastal port of Berenica.”

As late as the 19th Century, the Kedhive of Egypt had a monopoly on the mines. At that time, the mines on Zabargad Island produced millions of dollars’ worth of peridot. After 1905, production of the gems peaked, but by the late 1930s tapered off to practically nothing and reached a virtual standstill in 1958, when the mines were nationalized.

Although parcels of St. Johns peridot still come into the market once in a while, it is not known whether they are new or old. Most assume they are old.


Zabargad Island

Peridot Facts

The gemstone is known under three names: ‘peridot’, ‘chrysolite’ and ‘olivine’, for the peridot is the gemstone form of the mineral olivine. In the gemstone trade it is called ‘peridot’, derived from the Greek word ‘peridona’, which means something like ‘to give richness’. Gem quality peridot or olivine is a magnesium, iron silicate colored by trace amounts of iron.

Peridot is 6.5-7 on the Mohs hardness scale.  The stones have a tendency to be brittle, so a cotton swab and soapy water is all that is recommended for cleaning.

Peridot was known in old times as chrysolite. The word “chrysolite” was also used for some colors of topaz until we began to be able to recognize the differences between these stones.

The Power of Peridot

Throughout history, there have been many legends about the strong magical power that peridot possesses. Legend says that if the gem is set in gold, it will develop its full potential as a talisman and will have the power to dispel terrors of the night: fears and bad dreams. According to Pliny The Elder, the great Roman authority on such matters, for peridot to work its strongest magic, it must be worn on the right arm.

Peridot has been long considered to be an aid to friendship and supposedly frees the mind of envious thoughts. It is also supposed to protect the wearer from the evil eye. Other legends credit peridot with bringing happiness and good cheer, attracting lovers, and strengthening the eyes. Pliny wrote that peridot is dull during daylight hours but will glow like a hot coal by night.

Several sources say that in ancient times, cups or other vessels made of peridot were used in healing because medicinal liquids drunk from them were more effective.

Sources of Peridot

A major source of peridot is on San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, mined by freelance tribal miners. Peridot Mesa is comprised of a huge basalt flow containing fractured masses of olivine. As much as 20 percent of the volume of the flow consists of shattered peridot. Using primarily hand tools, tribal miners break the basalt/olivine rock and screen out the larger fragments of gem material. The majority are small pieces used for beads.

 Peridot Mesa

Peridot Mesa, Arizona

Other sources of peridot include Myanmar, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The latter two are known for fine-quality material.

Peridot 2


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