Is Peridot a Precious or Semi-Precious Stone?

Peridot is a popular green gemstone that has been used in jewelry for thousands of years. But there has been some debate over whether peridot should be classified as a precious or semi-precious stone. What exactly makes a gemstone precious or semi-precious? And where does peridot fall in these categories?

Precious stones are defined as rare, naturally occurring gem-quality stones that have high economic value. The traditional precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. These stones are considered precious because of their rarity, beauty, and durability. Precious stones are often used in fine jewelry and command high prices.

Semi-precious stones encompass all other natural gemstones that are not classified as precious stones. Semi-precious stones are more common and widely available compared to precious stones. Examples of popular semi-precious stones include amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, garnet, opal, and turquoise. Semi-precious stones are affordable, abundant alternatives to precious gems.

So where does the peridot fall in this spectrum? Peridot is the birthstone for August and is a transparent yellowish-green gemstone. It is the gem quality variety of the mineral olivine. Peridot is believed to have protective powers and healing properties. Some historians believe Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection may have actually been peridot.

In terms of rarity and value, peridot lies somewhere in the middle between precious and semi-precious stones. Fine quality peridot can be moderately valuable, particularly larger gemstones. But overall peridot is relatively abundant and affordable, especially compared to emerald. Smaller peridot stones can be purchased for very low prices.

Some specific factors that place peridot more into the semi-precious category include:

  • Peridot is widely available and found in many parts of the world including the United States, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Africa. While valuable, it is not as rare as diamonds or sapphires.
  • Peridot is not exceptionally hard or durable compared to many precious gems. It has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. Precious gems often rate 8 or higher.
  • Large high-clarity peridot gems are uncommon and valuable. But small, opaque stones can be inexpensive and are popular for mass-market jewelry.
  • Fine peridot jewelry exists but peridot is more often used in lower-priced causal jewelry styles. Precious gems are used in exclusives, high-end designs.

So in summary, based on its abundance, affordability, and typical use in mainstream jewelry, peridot is widely considered to be a semi-precious gemstone rather than a precious gem. However, exceptional peridot specimens can still reach precious gemstone values and be incorporated into exclusive designer jewelry. For the most part peridot occupies a middle ground between the most valuable precious stones and more common semi-precious gems.