The Peridot: A Guide to Cleopatra’s Favorite Gemstone

If you are an August-born baby, you have the privilege of calling peridot your birthstone. This magnesium-rich variety of olivine is an ancient gemstone dating all the way back to the Pharaohs in Egypt, and legend says this “gem of the sun” is Cleopatra’s favorite jewel.

Peridot Specification

  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 6.5 (fair to good toughness)
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Refractive Index: 1.65-1.69
  • Specific Gravity: 3.32-3.37
  • Cleavage: Poor
  • Chemical Formula: (Mg, Fe)2SiO4
  • Color: A peridot’s distinct green color deepens when high amounts of iron are present in its chemical structure, making it more desirable and valuable.

Peridot Origin and Sources

Almost all gemstones form beneath the earth’s crust, but the lovely peridot is an exception that forms deeper in the mantle region. Peridot crystals arise in magma from the upper mantle, until tectonic or volcanic activity brings them to the surface. After which, peridot can be found in extrusive igneous rocks.

Historically, the volcanic island Zabargad, the largest of a group of islands in Foul Bay, Egypt, was the location of the most valuable peridot deposits. It was exploited heavily for over 3,500 years until it was abandoned for centuries. People rediscovered and scoured the island for peridot around the 1900s. Today, the largest cut peridot originates from the island of Zabargad. It weighs 319 carats and currently belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

The most important deposits are in Pakistan (in the Kashmir region and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region). Remarkable peridots are also found in Vietnam and Myanmar. Other deposits are in the United States (Arizona and Hawaii), Tanzania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Norway, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil, and Australia. More recently, China has become one of the largest producers of peridot.

Peridot Mythology

For thousands of years, the peridot has been extensively used to embed jewelry. This ancient gemstone comes with an interesting history, both in nature and culture. The ancient Romans referred to it as the “evening emerald” because its color did not deepen at night, but was still beautiful next to the light of burning fire.

Ancient Egypt associates with peridot the most, and some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emeralds were peridots. Journeying crusades also brought peridot gems to Europe, in which builders used to enhance medieval churches.

According to ancient beliefs, the peridot was a gift from Mother Nature celebrating the annual creation of a new world. Further, national leaders who wore peridot gems were, in old times, thought to be wise, kind, and fair.

peridot scarab brooch

Peridot Qualities to Look For

If you have an interest in buying peridot gems and jewelry, you must consider the following characteristics to determine the overall quality and cost:

1. Peridot Color

Peridot is one of the very few gemstones that come in a single color. Its bright green shade does not change under artificial light and looks best under natural daylight. A peridot’s color can range from yellow-green, brownish green, and dark olive. Some of the world’s best peridots have an iron content of less than 15% and typically includes trace elements of nickel and chromium, which add to their color. An intense olive green peridot is considered the most desirable and valuable in the market.

2. Peridot Clarity

Peridot has excellent transparency. In fact, eye-clean specimens are abundant. Larger stones may appear somewhat cloudy due to the inclusions and impurities. When cut and polished, peridot gems have a beautiful, glass-like luster.

3. Peridot Cut and Shape

Peridot is usually faceted due to its exceptional transparency. Step and table cuts are the most popular, as well as unconventional checkerboards. Peridot can be found in various shapes, including fancies and traditional rounds, ovals, octagons, and cushions.

4. Peridot Treatment>

In most cases, peridot is not treated or enhanced in any way. However, few jewelers produce metal-foiled peridot to increase durability. Some pale or light green stones may be overlaid with green foil to enhance color. Imitation peridot is also widely available, typically of synthesized spinel or sapphire.

Peridot Gemstone in Jewelry

Peridot is an excellent gemstone for jewelry. It has good hardness and durability, making it suitable for almost any type of jewelry design. Many jewelers love its attractive color and affordable pricing. It is especially a popular gem in China since the majority of important deposits are now from the country. Peridot’s eye-catching green color is ideal for unisex jewelry designs, including bracelets, necklaces, earrings, bangles and cuffs, pins, brooches, cufflinks, and many other fashion accessories.

Peridot Care, Cleaning, and Storage

Though peridot is relatively durable, it is softer than many of its gem counterparts. Proper care is highly necessary to prevent scratches. First, always remove your jewelry before exercising, playing sports, and performing harsh household chores such as gardening. Peridot is not sensitive to acid, but it does have a fragile tenacity. Thus, avoid wearing peridot jewelry when using strong laundry detergents, soaps, and shampoos. This gem is also known to crack under high stress, so it is crucial to avoid settings that expose the gem to pressure (tension-set rings).

The use of warm, soapy water and a soft cloth can easily clean peridot gems. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue. Never use heat steamers or ultrasonic cleaners to clean your peridot. When storing these precious gems, make sure to keep them separated from other jewelry. If possible, wrap them with a soft cloth and store them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box to prevent tarnishing and scratching.

Get the Most Value for Your Peridot Gems

Because of its abundance, peridot comes in many interesting shapes, sizes, and in matching jewelry sets. A peridot’s price per carat varies, with factors such as color, cut, and quality determining its value.

If you are interested in selling your peridot jewelry, bring them to our Chandler (480-705-5626) or Scottsdale (480-991-5626) office to receive a free market appraisal. You may also get in touch with our expert appraisers by completing our online form. Rest assured that Biltmore Loan and Jewelry offers the most competitive prices for loans and outright purchases.