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Peridot crystal before faceting

One of the recognized August birthday stones is jade, the second gem is peridot, one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color: basically an olive green, but can slightly vary from yellow-green through olive green to brownish green. Peridot is also known as the chrysolite. The origin of the name "peridot" is uncertain. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests an alteration of Anglo-Norman PEDORETES (classical Latin PAEDEROT), a kind of opal, rather than the Arabic word FARIDAT, meaning "gem". Some sources say that the word "peridot" came from French.

Peridot with minor pyroxene on vesicular basalt
click to enlarge

Frankly speaking, peridot (chrysolite) is a gem quality olivine. Olivine itself is one of the most common minerals on Earth, and is usually named for its typically olive-green color. Chrysolite took its modern meaning much more recently, and in Greek times just meant "golden stone" (CHRYSO-LITHOS), and could refer not only to yellowish olivine, but also to topaz, Amber, yellow jasper, yellow serpentine, or even lapis lazuli which has golden flecks.

As it was said, olivine in general is a very abundant mineral, but peridot is rather rare. Peridot olivine is mined in North Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico, in the US; and in Australia, Brazil, China, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Norway, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. High quality peridot olivine is mined in the eastern lava fields of Saudi Arabia. Some of the finest gem-quality olivine has been obtained on Zabargad island in the Red Sea.

Peridot facts

1. Peridot is sometimes called "night emerald".

2. The largest cut peridot olivine is a 310 carat specimen in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

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