Peridot: August's Sunny Gemstone

As summer is slowly drawing to a close, Theodore & C. takes a look at the fresh and zesty August birthstone, peridot.
Formed from a silicate mineral called olivine, it contains iron trace elements which give it a distinctive green pigmentation. Depending on the amount of iron present in the crystal, peridot shades can range from warm hues of citrus green to intense olive green. A particularly stunning feature of peridot is that it exhibits high double refraction. Double refraction is when light passes through the gem, and then bends and splits in two. This ensures that the gemstone glows from within even in low light, not dulling when the night falls.

Unsurprisingly, peridot has been historically associated with light. In fact, the Egyptians called it the “gem of the sun”. Some believed that it protected its owner from the “terrors of the night”, especially when it was set in gold. Early records indicate that the ancient Egyptians mined a beautiful green gem on an island in the Red Sea called Topazios, now known as St John’s Island or Zabargad. Throughout history, peridot got confused with both topaz and emeralds depending on the depth of the green. Perhaps the most famous example of this confusion took place during the decoration of the shrine of the Three Holy Kings in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral. For centuries people believed the fabulous 200-carat gems adorning it were emeralds and not peridots.

However, even after peridots began to be consistently and correctly identified admiration for these gems did not wane. On the cusp of the 20th century, peridot obtained a link to the Feminist movement. Suffragette jewellery in Britain was made of green, white and violet semi-precious stones, colours that were a code for Give Women Votes (green for Give, white for Women, Violet for Votes). Suffragette jewellery originated in the 1890s, after the suffragette movement was banned. It was produced until 1918, the year in which British women first obtained the right to vote.

The stones were also chosen for adornment by the rich and powerful. In 1816 the Prince Regent, the future George IV, sent to ‘Miss Coats’ a set of peridots to wear at the marriage of his daughter, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. ‘Miss Coats’ was either Charlotte or Lucy Cotes, two of the ladies in Princess Charlotte’s household who had been recruited by the Prince Regent to keep a close eye on the princess between 1814 and 1816. Only eighteen months later Charlotte Cotes took part in the funeral procession for Princess Charlotte whose death in childbirth aroused a nationwide expression of grief.

Set of gold and peridot jewels by Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, London, 1816
In red leather case with letter to Miss Cotes
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Perhaps some of the most impressive peridot jewels make up the Habsburg peridot parure: a tiara, a necklace, earrings, and a substantial brooch. The parure dates to about 1825 and has been attributed to Köchert, who would later become the imperial court jewellers to the Habsburgs.

A set of Antique Peridot and Diamond Jewellery
Comprising a devant de corsage, designed as a cushion-shaped peridot in an old-cut diamond frame, to the diamond flowering surround, suspending three pear-shaped peridot and diamond pendants, a pair of earrings en suite, with detachable pendants, mounted in silver and gold
circa 1825, Austrian, brooch 9.3 cm, earrings 7.1 cm
Probably by Kochert

Princess Isabella of Croÿ wearing the Peridot Parure at the coronation of Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, 1916

It’s said that the first owner of the tiara was Archduchess Henriette of Austria, who was born a princess of Nassau-Weilburg. Her much older husband, Archduke Charles, was a field marshal who fought against Napoleon.
From Charles and Henriette, the peridot set eventually passed to their grandson, Archduke Friedrich, and his wife, Princess Isabella of of Croÿ. Isabella became the wearer most associated with the tiara. She was photographed in the suite at the coronation of Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, which took place in December 1916. Isabella’s husband died in 1936, many years after the Habsburgs had lost their imperial throne. The peridot jewels were auctioned off around the time of his death. What followed for the parure was a period of getting sold and resold at auctions until as recently as 2012.

Between 2001 and 2004 the parure belonged to Fred Leighton, the jewelry company that deals largely in vintage pieces. They often loan jewels to celebrities for public appearances. On the photo Joan Rivers wears the peridot necklace and earrings at the 2004 Golden Globes

Another stunning set that centres peridots was owned by Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, the wife of David Rockefeller.
The entire suite, which is set in 18k yellow gold, is an excellent example of a typical mid-century design by Van Cleef and Arpels. The necklace features a detachable pear and oval-cut peridot pendant brooch that can also be worn as a brooch. The earrings and bracelet feature distinctive leaf designs set with diamonds and large peridots.
Both the earrings and the bracelet feature distinctive leaf designs set with diamonds.
The set also featured an impressive peridot ring surrounded by a double halo of diamonds.

After the death of David Rockefeller, the set was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2018. The buyer turned out to be Van Cleef and Arpels themselves and the set fetched $348,500.

A suite of Peridot and Diamond Jewellery, by Van Cleef & Arpels
Comprising a necklace, suspending a detachable pear and oval-cut peridot pendant-brooch, enhanced by circular-cut diamonds, to the detachable surmount and neckchain of similar design, mounted in 18k gold (18 1/2 ins.); a bracelet (7 1/4 ins.), earrings (2 3/5 ins.) and ring (size 7) en suite, the necklace in a Van Cleef & Arpels grey suede case

Theodore & C celebrates all our August-born clients and wishes you a bright birthday. To treat yourself, find our selection of peridot featuring jewellery below.

Rainbow Tutti Frutti Necklace
Regular price 27,490 AED
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Siwa Earrings
Regular price 39,700 AED 
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Hind Choker
Regular price 48,665 AED
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