Slice of Esquel meteorite containing peridot. Image by Doug Bowman, 2004. Handful of green sand from Kona, Hawaii. Image by Dr. Anne Helmenstine.
Before researching for this report, peridot was honestly not a very interesting stone to me. The universe has again proved me a fool, for peridot has an amazing history that goes back before our planet was formed 4.54 billion years ago (more on that later). Peridot has a long history on earth as well, and was especially favored in Egypt and the Middle East. There are ancient papyri indicating its mining as early as 1500 BCE on the island of Zabargad off the Egyptian coast. Peridot was also brought back to Europe in the crusades to adorn relics in churches. Today, peridot is mined in several places worldwide, and gem-quality material has been found inside meteorites. The idea of sparkling pieces of pre-earth peridot spinning through space (try saying that three times fast) is amazing.
Peridot is like the little brother of diamond, as both can be found in meteorites and on earth they form miles below the surface in the mantle (most gemstones form in the crust). While diamond is made of carbon, peridot contains magnesium and iron with silica and oxygen. Peridot is always green, with the shade depending on the amount of iron present.
In Hawaii there are green sand beaches composed of grains of peridot eroded from volcanic rock. The natives believe the sand is related to the goddess Pele, and use it in healing ceremonies. In other parts of the world, peridot is believed to remove enchantments, ward off evil spirits, and calm an anxious heart.