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'The Romans called the peridot 'the Evening Emerald' because they noticed that lamplight made the peridot shine more brightly than usual almost like an emerald. Some trusting souls may even have been fooled. It is said that Cleopatra favored the peridot. Speculation has it that she may have been one who thought her peridots were emeralds. That the peridot was popular in Rome was noted by Pliny the Elder in about 77 AD, when he mentioned the gemstone in his book The Natural History. Of course we're all familiar with Cleopatra's involvement with the intrigues of the Roman Empire. A substitution of peridots for the more precious emeralds would not have been beyond the tactics used in the political/romantic entanglements of the time.

The earliest known deposits of the peridot probably came from St. John's Island in the Red Sea about forty-five miles off the Egyptian coast at Aswan. Could this have been Cleopatra's source? After having been lost over the centuries, the site was rediscovered in about 1900, but the peridot deposits had long since been exhausted. In medieval times, the peridot enjoyed a heyday of sorts, being used as an adornment in churches such as the Cathedral at Cologne.


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Today, the most beautiful peridots come from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Kashmir peridot came to prominence only during the 1990's. Due to unstable weather conditions at 13,000 feet above sea level as well as other unstable conditions of a geo-political nature the finest specimens of the modern peridot, can only be mined during the summer months. Although it might seem a stretch, this is somewhat fitting since the peridot is recognized as the birthstone for August. Ranking between 6.5 and 7 on Mohs scale, the peridot's color can sometimes be enhanced with applications of certain resins or oils, especially when in a setting to celebrate a 16th wedding anniversary.

Peridots of varying quality are also mined in Burma, China, Africa, and Australia. In Arizona, on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, yellowish, golden brown peridots are mined at a place called Peridot Mesa. These are used to adorn and enhance the beauty of locally produced Native American jewelry.

Next: The Peridot: A Hawaiian Legend

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