The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.
She opened her eyes, and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone
For the first time, now for the first time seen.
'Green' by D. H. Lawrence
Source: Poetry Magazine (vol. iii, 4), January 1914
When peridot was featured in high jewellery collections during peak lockdown, industry insiders expressed relief. Emerald, tourmaline and tsavorite have been in the limelight so often, somehow overshadowing peridot in popularity. It seemed like a long time coming.
Peridot possesses a yellow-green shade, with the most coveted kind leaning more to the colour of fresh grass. As a gem variety of the mineral olivine, it often emerges in volcanic rocks that have high concentrations of iron and magnesium. The latter is what lends this stone that green appearance. Gem-quality peridot used to be rare; it has chemical instability on Earth's surface, which means it tends to look very rough and is not ideal for jewellery design. It's also possible to find peridot in meteorites that descend on our planet. However, the chance of this happening is low.
Reportedly, the oldest peridot jewellery came from the Ancient Egyptians. The island of Zabargad in the Red Sea, now known as St. John's island, is one of the earliest known sources. Legend has it that the Ancient Egyptians kept this location secret due to its valuable peridot supply. One nugget of information I heard was Cleopatra's emerald collection may have comprised peridot since, historically, people often confused the stone and probably had no defined system to identify actual gemstones used. The fall of the empire meant Zabargad island became forgotten, then found again by mariners travelling through the Red Sea. The peridot supply has since been finished.
Peridot in rough form and a polished gemstone. Photograph by Sara Abey
Designers used peridot sparingly, usually as an accent at best but rarely as a centre stone. Until very recently. In August 2020, writer Carol Woolton issued a piece for British Vogue about a renewed trend of peridot jewellery
. And last year, jewellery blogger Katerina Perez noted how iconic designers are using the stone to highlight its uniqueness
. If you look at jewellery houses such as Pomellato and Annoushka, these designers are shifting to be more conscious of their footprint through stone sourcing.
As GIA notes, most of the peridot used in contemporary jewellery comes from China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Tanzania, Vietnam, and the United States. The city of Mogok in northern Myanmar is historically famous for its gemstones and semi-precious stones; some of the highest quality peridots come from here, exhibiting deep shades of green. Another important source is the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, where volcanic deposits from thousands of years ago produce very fine peridot. Yet, this list would be incomplete without Fuli Gemstones.
Fourth century B.C. peridot ring stone. Source: The Met
The Chinese company has gained the attention of European jewellery designers for its grass-green, inclusion-free peridot. With operations at the Changbai Mountains, Fuli is becoming known for providing traceable peridot of excellent quality, even monitoring where their peridots are cut and polished. They see a consumer need to know about a brand's impact on the planet, which Katerina Perez explores in an article that feels very timely
. Since the beginning of the pandemic, peridot jewellery seems to have boomed because of this progressive initiative alone.
It's fitting that the stone was attached to a special period of transition from summer to autumn. Green symbolises a connection with nature and wealth across many cultures that have preserved works of art and literature. If we look at painters, they have employed green in countless odes to wildlife. Edgar Degas, for example, made one artwork that is particularly striking in how it uses green to enhance the dancers. The viewer's eye is drawn to these subjects as they bustle about during rehearsal, their green tutus in unity with the loosely painted setting..
Dancers, Pink and Green by Edgar Degas. Oil on cavas, circa 1890.
The poem at the opening of this post is another example of the way nature can bring us to a sense of calm awe. Yet, alternate meanings of green exist. For example, Shakespeare likening envy to a 'green-eyed monster' in Othello, one of his greatest tragedies, is a searing image of rationality that could be undone by ill intentions. The potency of green in these works of art are now rooted in me.
At TVRRINI, peridot is prominently featured in this Minaudière pendant
. The design is inspired by vanity cases in the 1920s that women used to hold a woman's possessions and we used specially cut peridot and painstakingly set them in an 18-karat yellow gold frame. Besides the handmade hinge, the peridot's clarity is my favourite element of this design.
There is more to the prescribed birthstone of August. From a spiritual perspective, peridot offers a sense of tranquillity and has the association of boosting one's awareness if one wants to feel more grounded in an otherwise tense situation. I like that peridot can be so pleasing to the eye. There is something about vibrant green that invigorates us. If the recent uprising in the jewellery scene indicates, we may expect designs to experiment more with peridot as an artistic opportunity. There seems to be a cultural shift accepting it more openly.
Let us celebrate peridot.
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