Peridot is a bright yellow green or golden green variety of olivine. It was known by the ancient Egyptians as the gem of the sun, and has enjoyed a mystical reputation with its alleged powers including: warding off anxiety, enhancement of speech articulation, and success in relationships and marriage.
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Common in early Greek and Roman jewelry, peridot has been popular since 1500 BC when the Egyptians started mining it on Zeberget, later known as St. John's Island, about 50 miles off the Egyptian coast in the Red Sea. It was a dangerous business back then as the island was infested with poisonous serpents, which a later Pharaoh had driven into the sea.
Peridot mining was traditionally done at night when the stone's natural glow is easier to see, the ancient Egyptians even believed that peridots became invisible under the sun's rays.
Hawaiian natives believe peridot is the goddess Pele's tears, while biblical references to the stone include the high priest's breastplate - studded with a stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, one being peridot. Cleopatra reportedly had a fine collection of emerald jewelry, which was really peridot but it was the Ottoman Sultans who gathered the largest collection during their 600-year reign from 1300-1918, with an impressive array of both loose gem stones as well as peridot earrings, peridot rings and other peridot jewelry.
Powdered peridot has been used to cure asthma and a peridot placed under the tongue of someone in the grip of a fever will lessen their thirst. Legend has it that drinking from a peridot goblet can increase the potency of medicines.
It is said that pirate's believed peridot had the power to drive away evil spirits (and the night's terrors), especially if set in gold. But as protection from evil spirits it must be pierced, strung on donkey hair and worn on the left arm.
Possibly the most unusual peridot is that which comes from meteorites called pallasites. Some have even been facetted and set in jewelry, the only extraterrestrial gemstones known to man.
While, typically, a bright golden green, Peridot can vary to darker green or greenish yellow. Peridot has also been known as Chrysolite, although this is an old name which was applied fairly indiscriminately to any yellow and greenish yellow stones. It was also once incorrectly called topaz. There are also brown peridots. Since 1952, many stones believed to be brown peridots have been found to be a different mineral called Sinhalite.
The purer green a peridot is, the higher the value. Any tinge of brown greatly diminishes the price as well as any visible flaws.
In 1994, an exciting new deposit of peridot was discovered in Pakistan, and these stones are among the finest ever seen. The new mine is located 15,000 feet above sea level in the Nanga Parbat region in the far west of the Himalayan Mountains in the Pakistani part of Kashmir. Beautiful large crystals of peridot were found, some that cut magnificent large gemstones. One stone was more than 300 carats.