Pair-a-dot or Pair-a-doe?

Let’s face it – no other birthstone has quite so much confusion about its handle. (Except maybe “chalcedony,” and that’s not technically a birthstone.)

So which way is correct?

Chryzolit (perydot, oliwin) - Kohestan, Pakistan. 01
Peridot in the rough. The higher the iron content, the deeper the shade of green.

Webster’s dictionary defines the term “peridot” as “a deep yellowish-green transparent variety of olivine used as a gem” with the phonetic tag \ˈper-ə-ˌdät, -ˌdō(t)\ indicating that both pronunciations are acceptable. So don’t worry – you haven’t been saying it wrong!

That said, in the jewelry industry, the preferred term is the more fluid, Continental-sounding “pair-a-doe.” This seems to be the default version in most parts of the world, with some experts claiming it is the only correct title.

St. John's Island
St. John’s Island – a volcanic spot in the Red Sea – was once the ancient world’s primary source of peridot. The Greeks called it “Topazios.” (Image: The Giant Crystal Project)

To complicate matters, no one is really sure where the name comes from. Some suggest a source from the Arabic “faridat” for “gem,” or the Latin “paederot” for a kind of opal. The earliest known reference to a light green gem called by the familiar modern name is from 1700s France. Prior to that, this dazzling birthstone was lumped together with a number of precious stones under a handful of other names.

Somewhere along the line, the name stuck. In 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers adopted the peridot as the official August birthstone – a soothing, verdant sparkle to charm the dog days of summer.

San Carlos wildflowers, 2010

Peridot, Arizona lies within lands belonging to the San Carlos Indian Nation.

Interestingly, a place called Peridot, Arizona is one of this country’s centers for mining the starry green gem. Residents pronounce the name of their town with a “t.” So whether the name controversy arose somewhere within its obscure origins, or from an uber-literal text reading in early America, we’re not quite clear.

What is perfectly clear is that this gorgeous and unique gem transcends most vocabulary. A striking vivid color and a lore of magical powers makes it an outstanding design statement that doesn’t need a lot of words to make its point.

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