One gemstone is born in fire: peridot, the volcanic gem. Small crystals of peridot are often found in the rocks created by volcanoes and also can be found in meteors that fall to earth! A few samples of extraterrestrial peridot have even been faceted into gems! Peridot is the gem form of the mineral olivine. Because the iron which creates the color is an integral part of its structure, it is found only in green, ranging from a summery light yellowish green to a 7-up bottle green.
Peridot is the birthstone for August. Peridot was mined in ancient Egypt on an island called Zeberget. Mining was done at night because legend said that peridot could not be easily seen during the day. The island was infested with serpents who made peridot mining a very dangerous occupation until one Pharoh finally had them all driven into the sea. The Romans called peridot "evening emerald," since its green color did not darken at night but was still visible by lamplight. Peridot later was also often used to decorate medieval churches, probably carried back to Europe by the Crusaders. Large peridots, more than 200 carats in size, adorn the shrine of the three magi at the Cologne Cathedral. Peridot had the power to drive away evil spirits and the power was considered to be even more intense when the stone was set in gold.
Peridot was also said to strengthen the power of any medicine drunk from goblets carved from the gemstone. Today most peridot is mined by Native Americans in Arizona on the San Carlos Reservation. Fine large peridot are found in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and peridot is also mined in China and Sri Lanka.
In 1994, an exciting new deposit of peridot was discovered in Pakistan that is among the finest ever seen. The new mine is located 15,000 feet above sea level in the Nanga Parbat region in the far west of the Himalaya Mountains in the Pakistanian part of Kashmir. Beautiful large crystals of peridot were found, some that cut magnificent large gemstones. One stone was more than 300 carats! This new discovery, combined with fashion's passion for lime green, has revived interest in peridot and increased the popularity of this gemstone.
Although peridot is treasured in Hawaii as the goddess Pele's tears, almost all of the peridot sold in Hawaii today is from Arizona, although peridot is produced by Hawaii's volcanoes. The island of Oahu even has beaches made out of olivine grains but unfortunately they are much too small to cut into.