Peridot is the gem form of the mineral olivine. Because the iron which creates the color is an important part of its structure, it is found only in green, ranging from a summery light yellowish green to a 7-up bottle green. It is also the birthstone for August.
Peridot has been called and extraterrestrial 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.
This gem was mined in ancient Egypt. 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 Pharaoh 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.
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, and these stones are among the finest ever seen. Although peridot is treasured in Hawaii as the goddess Pele's tears, almost all of the peridot sold in Hawaii 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.