Peridot Facts, History, and Lore

Illustration: The Spruce / Hilary Allison

Peridot is the type of birthstone that you either love or hate. Despite the stone's lime green color and affordability, it is underrated in the fine jewelry market. Explore intriguing peridot facts that may make you appreciate this birthstone even more. 

What Is Peridot?

Peridot is a gem-quality form of the mineral olivine. This material is also referred to as chrysolite. 

The gem is found primarily among rocks that were created by volcanoes and buried deep underground (igneous rocks), so wherever there are or were volcanoes, this mineral is likely to be found.

Large quantities of peridot are mined from the San Carlos reservation in Arizona as well as in Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, and China. Peridot is also mined in large quantities in many other parts of the world like Pakistan and Kenya. Peridot that is mined in the U.S. is usually much smaller and lighter in color than the varieties from other locales. 

Some peridot specimens have been discovered in meteorites, though this finding is very rare.


Peridot is a French word that is derived from the Arabic word "faridat" meaning gem. The use of peridot in jewelry and other applications dates as far back as the ancient Egyptians from around 1500 B.C., making it one of the oldest gemstones. Egyptians referred to these green jewels as "gems of the sun." Back then the stones were mined on the Egyptian island Topazios which is now known as Zeberget. The stones were only mined at nighttime because it was believed they were not easily seen in daylight. Mining at night was also likely a result of the island being infested with snakes.

Throughout history, peridot jewels have been confused with emeralds. It was thought for a long time that the very large peridot jewels weighing more than 200 carats each adorning the Shrine of the Three Kings at the Cologne Cathedral were emeralds. Likewise, many people now believe that Cleopatra's famous "emerald" jewels were in fact peridot. Peridot has also been mistakenly referred to throughout history as topaz.

It is believed that Napoleon gave Josephine a peridot jewel as a symbol of his love for her.

According to the National Association of Jewelers, peridot has been the official birthstone of August along with sardonyx since 1912. 


Some of the myths and legends surrounding peridot include these:

  • In Hawaii, peridot symbolizes the tears of Hele who is the goddess of fire and volcanoes. 
  • Romans referred to peridot as "evening emerald" because unlike the deep hues of emeralds, peridot gemstones did not darken at night and still shimmered under candlelight. 
  • Legend has it that peridot could ward off evil spirits.
  • Peridot is thought to aid in the success of marriage and other relationships. This may be because it is thought to encourage positive energy as well as suppress ego and jealousy. 

Buying Peridot

Peridot, unlike most other gemstones, only comes in one color, pale green. There is a wide range of green shades that peridot exhibits, however, including olive green, lime green, yellowish green, and dark green. The most desirable shade of peridot is a deeply saturated forest green with a slight yellow tone and no brown tones. This color is more readily found in peridot stones weighing over 10 carats.

There is no synthetic or man-made version of peridot, but imitations do exist. These are usually made of glass or natural tourmaline. 

Commercial quality peridot is separated into quality grades of A and B. A quality peridot stones are eye clean yellowish green stones with no brown tones. B quality peridot stones are usually very pale in color or have visible inclusions. 

Peridot is a relatively inexpensive gemstone under 4 carats. Any stone weighing over 4 carats costs considerably more. Stones over 10 carats are exceedingly rare and therefore expensive. 

Peridot is a softer stone that is best set in jewelry that doesn't see hard wear. Bezel settings that protect the stone are recommended.