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August Birthstone: Peridot
Sometimes called the volcanic gem because it is born in fire, small peridot (pronounced "pear-uh-doe") crystals are often found in basaltic rocks created by volcanoes and in meteors that fall to earth. A few of these "extra-terrestrial gems" have even been faceted into cut gemstones!

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.

This lustrous green gem was mined in ancient Egypt on an island called Zeberget. According to legend, the mining was done at night because lit was said that the rough stone could not be easily seen during the day. Zeberget was overrun with poisonous snakes that made mining a very dangerous occupation until one Pharaoh finally had them all driven into the sea. The Romans called it the "emerald of the evening," since its green color was visible even by lamplight.

Brought back to Europe by the Crusaders, peridot was used to adorn medieval churches. Large stones more than 200 carats in size were used to decorate the Shrine of the Three Magi at the Cologne Cathedral.

Peridot is considered a protection stone: it was used drive away evil spirits. This power was thought to be intensified when the stone was set in gold. It's mystical quality was also said to increase the effects of any medicine drunk from a goblet 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 it is also mined in China and Sri Lanka. In 1994, an exciting new deposit of peridot was discovered in Pakistan, producing stones of the highest quality ever found. The new mine is located 15,000 feet above sea level in the far west of the Himalayas, in the Pakistan portion of Kashmir. Beautiful large crystals of peridot have been found, some that cut magnificent large gemstones (one stone was over 300 carats!). This new discovery, combined with fashion's enduring love for lime green, has revived interest in peridot and increased the popularity of this gemstone.

Although peridot is referred to in Hawaii as the fire goddess Pele's tears, most of the peridot sold there today is from Arizona, even though 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 peridot!

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We encourage republication but stipulate the piece be copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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