History of Peridot

Peridot has one of the oldest and most detailed historical traditions of any healing stone. It is included in virtually every known lapidary, texts which describe gemstones and their powers. Some of the most ancient traditions concerning Peridot date back to the very dawn of human civilization and probably originated long before that!

This stone has been called a variety of names, including: Olivine, Chrysolite, Evening Emerald, Forsterite, Fayalite, and Peridotite – which has understandably caused some confusion over the years. Forsterite and Fayalite are actually close cousins to Peridot, but are distinct minerals. Evening Emerald is a trade name which was once used to sell more stones, but has since fallen out of favor. The other three names are more accurate. Peridot is the name used by geologists and gemologists to refer to the gem-variety of the mineral Olivine. Geologists use the term Peridotite to refer to an olivine-rich stone. For the purpose of most collectors and those interested in crystal healing, the name Peridot is the most useful. Its name comes from the French peritot, whose precise meaning is unknown.

Peridot was mentioned by Pliny the Elder (CE 23-79), a Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, in his lapidary, The Natural History of Precious Gemstones. He uses the name “Chrysolite” as well as “Topazius” and references an island in the Red Sea where it is commonly found. This island, Zagbargad (known in the English-speaking world as St. John’s Island) has been produced beautiful Peridots for at least 2500 years! Zagbargad was called “Topazos” during the Roman Era. Centuries earlier, Zagbargad, was called “Serpent Island.” However, the very oldest reference to the island and its beautiful gemstones dates back to 1500 BCE. Ancient papyri records document mining on the island, the stones destined for the Pharaoh’s treasury. According to legend, the inhabitants of the island would wander by night, looking for a radiant glow in the darkness. Once the glow was spotted, the place would be marked and mined the next day for the precious mineral.  Peridots are still found on the island to this day and are the main source for Egyptian Peridots.

Zabargad, Peridot Mine

Zabargad Island, Egypt

During the Crusades, Egyptian Peridots were brought to Europe. Most of them were mistakenly called “Emeralds” and given to the Catholic Church. It is believed that many of the so-called Emeralds in the Church’s inventory are in fact dark green Peridots! Throughout the medieval period, lapidaries described Peridot/Chrysolite’s many powers. According to the Lapidairy of Chevalier Jean de Mandeville, “…[Peridot] chases away bad thought and spirits. This stone is good for those who dabble in necromancy…. The man who wears it is never suspected of evil doings, and it greatly helps him enter anywhere he wants to go, because he will be rendered gracious and friendly.”

Today, most people think of Peridot as a green or lime green stone. However, it can also appear bright golden yellow. These yellow Peridots have been linked to the sun since ancient times. This golden color also accounts for the long association between Peridot and prosperity.  Peridot is also considered a very playful and happy stone. One more likely to bring a youthful sparkle to the eye and a taste for innocent mischief than to be used for necromancy!