emerald and peridot

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Emerald vs Peridot

When people think of red gemstones, they think of rubies. Blue brings sapphire to mind. And green equals emerald. Right? Well, kind of. Because of the sheer number of natural occurring gemstones, it’s common for there to be more than one type per colour.

There are many, many green gems, the most popular being emerald and peridot. While both gems are broadly the same colour, they are distinctly different shades of green; emeralds tend to be a deeper, more verdant hue whereas peridots are touch lighter and more olive coloured. We’re here to explore the both emeralds and peridots to help you decide which one is right for you.

Formation

Emeralds are typically found in Columbia, Zambia, Canada, and Madagascar; each region producing emeralds with different characteristics.

They’re formed in the earth’s crust in hydrothermal veins – channels through which hydrothermal fluids travel. Hydrothermal fluids are natural heated water solutions created by geological events and consisting of different elements, gasses and compounds.

Emeralds come from the mineral beryl, which is a combination of beryllium, aluminium, silicon, and oxygen. Add chromium to beryl and it turns green – and becomes an emerald.

The best examples of peridot typically comes from Burma and Pakistan. It is one of only two gemstones (the other being diamond) that is formed in the mantle of the earth, a level deeper than all other gemstones. Both peridots and diamonds are brought to the surface of the earth by geological events such as volcanic activity and the shifting of tectonic plates.

Peridot is a variety of olivine – which is composed of fayalite and forsterite – with the depth of the green dependant on how much iron is present in the stone.

bright green gemstones

Value and rarity

Emeralds are rare, especially when looking for large, high quality examples. Their rarity, combined with their beauty and historical significance, make emeralds a very valuable stone, costing anywhere up to £5,000 per carat. This depends heavily on quality of course, which is measured in the same way as with a diamond by using the 4C’s – colour, clarity, cut, and carat.

On the other hand, peridot is considered a semi-precious stone and, although stocks are scarce, it is more abundant than emerald. It also generally costs much less and can be found at under £100 per carat. Again, it is graded using the 4Cs, and its value can fall dramatically with the presence of internal inclusions.

Cultural significance

Emerald has been highly prized and sought after throughout history, with evidence of it being traded as early as 4000BC. It is the birthstone of May, the stone of the zodiac sign Cancer, is often associated with Ireland (although it is not found there naturally) and is said to open the heart.

Early records of show peridot being mined as far back as 1500BC. It often mistaken for other, more precious, gemstones. Legend has it that peridot was Cleopatra’s favourite gemstone, although she believed it was emerald. It’s one of several birthstones for August.

Jewellery

Emerald jewellery is greatly desired because of its value, beauty and rarity. It can be highly priced, sometimes even more so than diamond jewellery. It’s often set in yellow gold rings, such as in this interesting Art Deco two row emerald ring.

emerald ring

Because peridot is a much less valuable gemstone, it is often found in pieces of much lower quality and value than emerald jewellery. Peridot stones might be set in sterling silver or as opposed to emerald which will usually be set in high carat gold or platinum.

Other green gemstones

There are a range of other, lesser-known green gemstones aside from emerald and peridot, including:

  • Green agate – The green variety of agate is a non-precious stone that’s known for the banding that distinguishes it from other types of chalcedony
  • Alexandrite – Alexandrite is a variety of Chrysoberyl that appears green during the daytime and takes on reddish hues at night
  • Apatite – Apatite is a semi-precious stone, and is the material with a score of 5 on the Mohs scale of hardness
  • Tsavorite garnet – Tsavorite is the name given to a variety of garnet that has an emerald green colour
  • Jade – Jade is a popular green mineral which is used ornamentally and has spiritual associations
  • Green sapphire – Sapphires can form naturally in a deep green colour when iron is present during their formation