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Peridot: Birthstone for August

Peridot is gem quality olivine, a name which describes the duller olive colour of this more common variant of the stone. Peridot is a brilliant, translucent lime green. It is a gemstone of mystery on many levels. It has been called the 'Evening Emerald' owing to its brilliance in the dusk. It seems brighter at twilight than at other times. Historically it has long been recognised as a stone of protection. The 11th Century Bishop Mabodus of Rennes said in his book on gem lore Liber de lapidibus that, "If it were to be used as a protection from the wiles of evil spirits, the stone had to be pierced and strung on the hair of an ass and then attached to the left arm." Before you head out to pluck hairs from the tail of the nearest donkey I suspect similar levels of protection would be gained from simply carrying the stone or wearing it as peridot jewellery. Do take care of your peridot, it only measures 6.5 - 7 on Mohs scale of hardness and so may be damaged if you wear it whilst doing manual chores.

Like diamond, peridot forms deep in the mantle of the Earth. It is brought to the surface through volcanic action and on Hawaii it was believed to be the tears of the goddess Pele. Peridot has been found in meteorites and it was discovered on the surface of Mars by NASA in 2003. Here we have a volcanic gemstone coming from deep within our Earth and also from outer space. 'As above, so below,' seems a particularly apt phrase to bear in mind when working with this vivid green gem. This harmonises with peridot's support of the heart chakra, our own place of balance between Earthly and Universal energies. Peridot is the gemstone most associated with Libra. This stone of balance is perfect for Librans whose own symbol is the weighing scales.

Peridot was most highly prized by the Ancient Egyptians and was called 'the gem of the Sun.' This must have been a reference to the qualities of the gem rather than its bright green colour. The vivid green is emblematic of Spring and fresh growth and it is an excellent companion for starting a project or new job with a burst of enthusiasm. Peridot has a zingy and uplifting energy which may help to support a mindset of abundance and prosperity, which is one of the traditional properties of the stone.

For thousands of years peridot was mined on a mysterious island in the Red Sea which belongs to Egypt. The island has gone by several names, including the enigmatic Island of Serpents and the Island of the Dead. Now it is known as Zabargad Island. Access from the mainland to the island was forbidden and the sourcing of these stones was strictly controlled by the Pharoahs of Egypt; the death penalty was the punishment for any trespassers. This is still not a place that you are allowed to visit and local superstition clings to this island which is surrounded by treacherous reefs and is frequently hidden by mist.

It is believed that peridot was one of the list of twelve stones Moses brought down from his encounter with God on Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments. These stones were set in the High Priest Aaron's breastplate of judgement. The precise list of stones is uncertain now as names of stones have changed over time, but peridot may have been pitdah, the second stone on the list.

In modern times sources of peridot include Myanmar, the Himalayas of Pakistan and China. Another source of peridot is on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona. Whilst most people pronounce the name peri-doh the Apaches call the stone peridot, sounding the t. This accords with one of the possible origins of the name. In Middle English 'perry' meant bright and 'dot' meant button, so peridots were perhaps charmingly named as 'bright buttons'. It has also been suggested that it gets its name from French 'peritot' in which case you would not sound the final 't'. I say enjoy this vivacious stone and pronounce it according to your preference!

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