Olivine is a mineral which at gemstone quality, is referred to as Peridot. It is one of the few gemstones which is found in just one colour. Its depth of colour depends on how much iron is contained in the crystal structure and can vary from yellow green to olive to brownish green.
Peridot's correct pronunciation is "per-i-doh" as opposed to "per-i-dot".
Olivine is a very abundant mineral but gem quality material is much rarer. The largest cut Peridot gemstone is a 310 carat (62g) specimen in the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.
One of the earliest references to Peridot was in Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder (an ancient author and natural philosopher) in which he tells of the first specimen which is presented to Berenice, Theban queen of Lower Egypt circa 300 B.C. It is also mentioned in the book of Exodus as one of the gemstones in the high priest's breastplate, a religious garment adorned with twelve precious gems each of which represents one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Ancient Egyptian rulers called Peridot 'the gem of the sun' because of its intense brightness and it was believed that it could not be mined during daylight because its brightness rendered it invisible. In the dark it was believed to give off its own light so miners could mark its location then return during daylight hours to collect it.
Peridot was originally mined on the island of Zagbargad (the Arabic word for Peridot) which is located in the red Sea about 54 kilometres off the coast of Egypt, most of the earliest known gemstones came from here and small amounts are still produced today. In later years, very large fine quality gemstones were also found in Myanmar formerly Burma and mines in this area became well known for their 20 to 40 carat stones which boasted amazing colour and clarity.
Peridot is unusual in that it is highly susceptible to chemical weathering and hence does not survive for long at the surface in wet climates. This probably accounts for the very limited number of localities where it can be found and its restriction to areas which have arid or semi-arid climates.
Fine grade Peridot was discovered in Pakistan circa 2000 and the size of some of the crystals was said to be absolutely stupendous. Once cut, some of them weighed over 2000 carats, however these supplies are now dwindling and a tribal war over control of the mines raises uncertainties about future availability. Furthermore this region is extremely inhospitable and dangerous 15,000 feet up in the Kashmir region of the Himalayas and hence the weather leaves the site accessible for only two or three months of the year.
Peridot Mesa located on the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation is currently the most productive mining area in the world for Peridot and it is estimated that 80% to 95% of the world's supply comes from here. Smaller amounts can also found in Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Norway, and USA.
In crystal healing, Peridot is said to be excellent for acting as a "tonic" to both strengthen and regenerate the body. It emits a warm and friendly energy and provides a shield of protection around the wearer. It can help heal a bruised ego by assisting in the lessening of anger or jealousy and inspiring happiness within ones self. It increases patience, confidence and assertiveness as well as helping to slow the ageing process and aid in the treatment of digestive, heart, lung and eye disorders. Peridot is also said to be helpful in facilitating the birthing process. It attracts love and its deep green colour also suggests a connection with attracting wealth.
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