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A history of peridot jewellery

Once favoured by Egyptians and Suffragettes alike, this otherworldly green gemstone is enjoying a comeback thanks to a new discovery

December 1, 2020 By Rachael Taylor


The Egyptians called them the ‘emeralds of the night’, due to an ability to retain their grass-green colour even in the lowest of lights, when other gems lost lustre. The Suffragettes rallied behind them as a verdant symbol of hope. Peridot has a long history of delighting and empowering its wearers, and its star is in ascendance once more.

 

Look to the major high jewellery launches of the summer and you’ll see the green gem in frequent favour. In Bulgari’s Barocko collection, it clashes wonderfully in cabochon form with rubellite, amethyst and malachite in a colourful update of the brand’s iconic Diva’s Dream earrings. In its Colour Delight bracelet, peridot plays pastels in pear cuts with softer hues of amethyst and blush tourmaline, and strikes a regal tone in a large oval cut on a collier.

 

At Pomellato, peridot took centre stage in Gioia di Pomellato, the Italian maison’s first high jewellery collection, launched in July. The crowning glory was the Nudo Collier Cascade necklace, which creates a waterfall of custom-cut peridot in large sizes pouring from rose gold and tsavourite rings.

 

Pomellato 18ct gold, peridot and tsavorite Nudo Collier Cascade necklace
Pomellato 18ct gold, peridot and tsavorite Nudo Collier Cascade necklace
Pomellato 18ct gold, peridot and tsavorite Nudo Collier Cascade necklace, price on application, Pomellato

 

 

Bright colour, big look

In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the use of so-called semi-precious gems such as peridot in high jewellery collections, and the gemstones’ status in the luxury world has risen in accordance. It has been exhilarating to watch the traditional, and somewhat staid, trio of ruby, emerald and blue sapphire joined by a rainbow of alternative coloured gems, driven by a renewed passion for colour in jewellery.

 

“Pomellato is not an elitist jeweller,” says Sabina Belli, chief executive of Pomellato, latching on to the spirit of inclusiveness currently germinating in the upper echelons of jewellery. “[Gioia di Pomellato] reflects the Italian art of living, where one does not make a distinction between everyday jewellery and ceremonial jewellery, between the jewels that one wears and those that one leaves in the vault. In Italy, beauty is not to be feared, it is to be revered.”

 

And not just in Italy. One of the benefits of peridot is that its relative affordability, compared to other coloured gemstones, means you can achieve a red-carpet look without the insurance policy to match.

 

“I don’t usually like yellow-greens, I am more of a blue-green girl, but recently I got some insanely gorgeous peridot from Afghanistan and it absolutely won me over,” says Jen Rush, founder of New York’s Rush Jewelry Design. “High-quality peridot, which is clean and intensely saturated, is a big bang for your buck.”

 

Rush Jewelry lapis lazuli, peridot and gold cuff
Rush Jewelry lapis lazuli, peridot and gold cuff
Rush Jewelry 18ct yellow gold, lapis lazuli and peridot Draper cuff, $9,400, Rush Jewelry

 

 

A natural beauty

Peridot also requires no treatment; unlike emeralds, which need oiling, and rubies, the colour of which can often be enhanced artificially by heating. And it boasts the gemmological quirk of double refraction, an optical illusion that leads you to see two of every facet when gazing into a well-cut gem. With so many enticing qualities, why hasn’t peridot been as popular as other coloured gems? At what point did Cleopatra’s favourite gemstone drop off the radar?

 

“Peridot has a fascinating history,” says Pia Tonna, chief marketing officer of Fuli Gemstones, owner of the world’s largest-known peridot mine. “The Victorians, and later King Edward VII, loved peridot. I appreciate the fact that the Suffragettes used it to stand for votes for women, setting it in jewels alongside amethyst and either a diamond or pearl to signify allegiance to the cause’s official colours of green, white and purple, showing hope, purity and dignity. Once women got the vote, they no longer had to push it and peridot fell out of fashion.”

 

However, we could be set to see lots more quality peridot flowing through jewellery houses soon. The Fuli Gemstones mine in China’s Changbai Mountains will aim to provide a consistent supply of high-grade peridot in larger carat weights.

 

Zeemou Zeng Fuli Gemstones peridot Melody Ring
Zeemou Zeng Fuli Gemstones peridot Melody Ring
Zeemou Zeng 18ct white gold, diamond and Fuli Gemstones peridot Melody ring, £3,900, Zeemou Zeng

 

 

Verdant versatility

Larger rough means more potential for experimentation. “I have always loved the Art Deco period and particularly the work of Cartier during that time, who created many pieces with peridot,” says high-jewellery designer Fabio Salini, who worked for both Cartier and Bulgari before launching his namesake house in the late 90s.

 

“I am drawn to the forest-like hue of peridot and the large-scale pieces that one can source, which work well with some of my most contemporary works,” comments Fabio. A recent creation, which Fabio Salini showcased at Masterpiece in London, was a carbon fibre, gold and diamond cuff resembling a belt, with the buckle crafted using 16 large rectangular-cut grass-green peridot.

 

Peridot is a versatile stone and lends itself well to many cuts; a fact perfectly demonstrated by Fuli Gemstones when it challenged two emerging jewellers, Liv Luttrell and Zeemou Zeng, to design with its peridot. Zeemou opted for small round peridot beads to set within his signature kinetic Melody ring with white gold tubes that allow the gems to safely clack back and forth. Liv opted for one large 3.94ct oval-cut peridot, which she has made the centre of one of her gleaming sculptural Spear Tip rings in yellow gold. The two very different designs will make their British debut at The Jewellery Cut Live in association with Fuli Gemstones in London in 2021.

 

Fabio Salini belt jewel with peridot
Fabio Salini belt jewel with peridot
Fabio Salini carbon fibre, 18ct gold, diamond and peridot Fibbia bracelet, price on application, Fabio Salini

 

 

Out of this world

As well as a rich history here on earth, peridot also has celestial associations that will appeal to those of us who like to imagine connecting with a higher power. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) estimates that peridot is 4.5 billion years old, and most is found in lava or rock deposits that were forced up from below the earth’s mantle by volcanic eruptions, in the same way diamonds were. Some, though, have been discovered in pallasite meteorites – “remnants of our solar system’s birth”, as the GIA puts it. In 2005, peridot was also found in comet dust brought back by NASA’s Stardust robotic space probe.

 

Peridot is also said to have more earthly spiritual properties, tapping into the current zeitgeist for healing gemstones. Peridot’s talismanic powers seem to be rooted in its ability to calm our senses; perhaps as a psychological reaction to its green hue that our inner Neoliths would associate with a lush space to forage, and therefore with safety.

 

“Peridot is your vitamin-D gemstone for releasing unnecessary emotional baggage,” says Carolin Rosa, the designer behind healing gemstone jewellery brand Carolin Stone. “Peridot helps you to have more power to focus on positive thoughts and experiences. It increases your vibrations while it reduces your stress level and anger. You are able to feel free from emotions that pushed you down, and to feel less stressed.”

 

Such levelling goodness is a talisman we could all use at the moment, and just one more reason why celestial, versatile, verdant peridot deserves a fresh look.

Liv Luttrell 18kt Yellow Gold Spear Tip ring featuri ng 3.94ct Fuli Peridot £6700 www.livluttrell.com
Liv Luttrell 18kt Yellow Gold Spear Tip ring featuri ng 3.94ct Fuli Peridot £6700 www.livluttrell.com
Liv Luttrell 18ct yellow gold Spear Tip ring, featuring a 3.94ct Fuli Gemstones peridot, from £6,700, Liv Luttrell

 

 

WATCH: Learn more about the history of peridot and Fuli Gemstones 

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