Those born in the month of August call peridot (also sometimes known as ‘olivine’) their birthstone. With its bright golden green hue it is an appropriately fresh shade for this summer month. The name ‘peridot’ is thought to derive from the Greek ‘peridona’, roughly meaning ‘to give richness’, referring most likely to this intense green colour. This feature in fact is an important defining characteristic of peridot, this gem being one of the few that only come in one hue, unlike, for example, sapphires, which form in almost every colour of the rainbow.
Esteemed in ancient times, the Egyptians set peridot in jewellery as early as the second millennium BC. Equally the Ancient Romans prized the stone, and it remained popular in Europe, particularly in the Baroque period, when it was often mounted into church treasures, such as can be found in the famed Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
Formed in igneous rock, in ancient Egyptian times peridot was sourced from a volcanic island in the Red Sea which was rediscovered in the nineteenth century and since depleted. Today the best specimen are found in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir, though they can also be found in Burma, China, Australia, the United States and parts of Africa. For amateur gem-hunters, this last location may be of interest for the summer holidays, as peridot can be easily picked up on the beaches of the volcanic island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco. Happy hunting!