"". Fit for a Pharoah: the Peridot, Birthstone for August | Is This Mutton?

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Saturday 5 August 2017

Fit for a Pharoah: the Peridot, Birthstone for August

Peridot Oval Cluster Ring Vintage 14 carat Yellow,  Gold Estate Fine Jewelry Pre

Continuing Is This Mutton's series on the birthstones, we hone in on Peridot, the birthstone for August. The beautiful ring above is secondhand with six carats of Peridot set in 18CT gold. Image: Ruby Lane. Post updated in August 2019.
This yellow green stone has been described as the "evening emerald." A  few years ago it was quite rare and sought after, but as more deposits were found, it has become quite common,  although the pure green stones are very rare.

From the abundant olivine family, Peridot is mined in many countries including the US, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. The most significant producer of Peridot remains the San Carlos Reservation of Arizona.

The history and legends associated with Peridot

The history of Peridot is intrinsically tied to the tiny Egyptian island of St. John (Zabargad) in the Red Sea, which was the one of the few ancient sources of Peridot. For 3,500 years the barren and closely-guarded volcanic island was the only place to find this gem.

The young pharaoh Tutankhamen proudly wore a Peridot pendant and in the Judeo-Christian world the Peridot - known as pitdah or tharshish - was considered one of the most precious stones and is mentioned twice in the Bible. Along with the Ten Commandments, scholars believe that it was among the 12 stones Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. Cleopatra of Egypt’s green jewels may well have been Peridots, mistakenly identified as emeralds.

The St. John island deposit was thought to be totally exhausted, but in the 1990s significant deposits were discovered.

It was once believed that the green  Peridot crystals found in volcanic ashes were the tears of the volcano goddess, Pele. When set in gold, this gem was said to protect the wearer from nightmares.

One of the theories regarding the reasons why the Peridot fell out of favour is that large, good quality stones were increasingly hard to find while new sources of deep green emeralds and shimmering diamonds were being discovered. So down on its luck was the Peridot that it came to be considered the 'poor man’s emerald'.


Peridot is not a very durable gemstone. It has a lower hardness than many gemstones and is more prone to scratches, and has a tendency to occasionally burst under great stress. Peridot also cannot stand intense heat or rapid temperature changes. Peridot can also chip if banged hard, and should never be steam cleaned or cleaned with ultrasonics.

Peridot on Mars?

There's another twist to the intriguing history of Peridots that adds a cosmic dimension. In 2003, NASA reported that Peridot had been found on Mars, making it the only gemstone known to occur on another planet.

More Birthstones to Discover 

Is This Mutton? has a jewellery board on Pinterest featuring many of the stones shown so far in the birthstone of the month series plus other delicious items.

Discover the stories behind other fabulous birthstones: ruby, emerald, diamond, pearl, moonstone, topaz, garnet, amethyst, opal, tanzanite, heliotrope

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  1. What a pretty colour, and some lovely examples you have shared Gail. x Jacqui

    1. Thanks Jacqui - it's a pretty, delicate stone I think.

  2. Fascinating. I have always been drawn to emeralds because they are green, which everyone knows is the best color in the world. Not sure why I never gave the Peridot its due. I actually prefer this shade of green!! But I am a clumsy gal and have broken a number of delicate opals in ring settings so I am thinking the Peridot might be endangered around me. At least on my man-hands.

    Wonder how it was determined that Peridot can be found on Mars? I guess through soil samples or the Rovers? Amazing.

    Again, your writing makes for such an enjoyable read. I always appreciate your thoughtful word choice and interesting fashion-related topics.

    1. Thanks Leslie, you're the best! I haven't given the peridot much thought either, though I do have a very tiny ingot on a necklace, and a pair of matching earrings. I was going to photograph them but would have needed a microscope!

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