The peridot is one of the lesser-known gemstones, despite its illustrious history, increasing rarity and lively beauty. Although a quality peridot is a bright shade of light green tinged with yellow, these gems are often mistaken for darker emeralds. In fact, the Romans called them the “evening emeralds” because of the way they caught and reflected lamplight. Peridots are the birthstone of those born in August and have developed a significant lore within the many cultures that prized them for thousands of years.
The Egyptians first discovered a small supply of peridots on the island of Zabargad. They were immediately taken with the vibrant gems and expanded mining operations in the area. The color of the stones, reminiscent of spring, linked them to nature, youthfulness and the goddess Isis. Priests drank from cups lined with peridot to heal maladies and pay tribute to the goddess. From Egypt, peridots spread to the other major civilizations of Greece and Rome.
The gems were thought to promote wealth and power for their wearers and also to ward against nightmares and jealous thoughts. These stones were not always a positive omen, however: Dreams of peridots signified future misfortune. Today, they are still mined in limited quantities on Zabargad, now St. John’s Island.
Christians and Europe
Crusaders invading Egypt during the Middle Ages found the peridot mines on Zabargad and brought many of the gems back with them to Europe. These stones had already played a heavy role in Christianity and appear numerous times in the Bible under the name chrysolite. Aaron the Priest, brother of Moses, wore a peridot into battle. They represent purity in Christian folklore and commonly ornament high-ranking Catholic Church officials. Europeans tended to favor the more luxurious emerald, but the peridot was a common sight in the clothing, jewelry and belongings of the wealthiest nobles.
Peridots are rare in Hawaii, but as one of the few natural gems found on the islands they quickly became a treasured part of native mythology. Tiny peridot pebbles washed up onshore, causing the Hawaiians to believe they were the tears of Pele, goddess of the fiercest elements.
The August Birthstone
Today, peridot is best known as the birthstone for those born in August. Peridots are therefore associated with Leos and bring peace to the wild hearts of their bearers. Like nature itself, the peridot is a vital and active gem. Wearing one brings luck and good sense, as well as stronger friendships and a knack for attracting wealth. It is rumored to provide healing energies to those with a clear and untroubled spirit, but it will only cloud the minds of the emotionally turbulent.
This unassuming gem, so often overshadowed by emeralds, has a fascinating history and can become an exquisite part of any wardrobe. Peridots are best paired with light, breezy colors such as pastels or the stark contrasts of black and white. They are especially beautiful when worn by dark brunettes or redheads. It is a delicate stone, and a rare one, so treat your peridot jewelry with great care to preserve it for the appreciation of future generations.*Disclaimer: This article is meant to serve only as an illustration of opinions and practices and should not be considered an endorsement of any kind. Any beliefs described here may not necessarily be true. No portion of the text above should be considered a source of medical advice.