Pele’s Tears

Hawaiian legend says that it is the goddess Pele’s tears.  In Roman times, it was known as “evening emerald” because it appears green, even in low light.  What is this gemstone that so captured the imagination of people?  It is peridot, the birthstone for the month of August. 

Faceted peridot - photo by Michelle Jo

Although it was used in jewelry thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt and in Ancient Greece, peridot was introduced to Europe only during the Middle Ages when it was brought back by Crusaders.  It was often used as a decorative element in churches.  Peridot remained popular until about the 1700s, but then it fell into obscurity.   

This changed in the mid 1990s, after a rich deposit of high quality peridot was found in Pakistan.  The high quality gemstones are known as “Kashmir peridots”.

Peridot crystal from Pakistan - photo by Rob Lavinsky of irocks.com

Peridot can be different shades of green ranging from yellow-green, to olive-green, to an  intense apple green or even a brownish green, but it is always green. It is one of few gemstones that comes in only one colour.  The intensity of the colour is dependant on the amount of ferrous iron present. 

Emerald cut peridot - photo by Michelle Jo

 

Peridot is sometimes treated with colourless oil, wax and/or resins to improve its appearance.  It is safe to assume that inexpensive peridot has been treated in some way. 

Store your peridot jewelry with care as the stone picks up scratches easily and can be difficult to polish.  This gemstone is sensitive to quick temperature changes, so avoid steam cleaners and ultrasonic cleaners.  Instead, clean peridot using mild dish soap.   Peridot is also sensitive to acids, which will quickly remove the polish on the stones, so avoid using household cleaners when wearing peridot jewelry.

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