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Burma Peridot

In 1962, just before a military takeover of Burma and the abrupt closing off of the country, a New York cutter bought a large selection of very fine to superb 20- to 40-carat peridots there for $1.50 per carat.

Nearly three decades later, the only Burmese peridot he can find is decent but far from great, yet the price asked of him is 100 times that of Burma’s best before the country was shut off from the world. And, mind you, this is the cost to a seasoned haggler in Thailand, the next-door haven for Burmese gems. The lapidary says he can’t begin to figure out what consumers would have to pay today for the kind of top-grade material in sizes between 20 and 40 carats that he bought in 1962.

But even if he could, all the cutter’s estimates would be moot. “I can’t find any goods,” he complains. “Not in Asia or America.”
The paucity of fine large peridot comes, as is so often the case in the jewelry world, just when this gem is capturing lots of attention. Peridot’s status as the August birthstone, its pleasing green and its bargain price relative to its extreme scarcity in top grades make it possible for dealers who carry this gem to sell all the fine-specimen large stones they can rustle up from estates, auctions or each other.

“I wish I could lay my hands on enough large, clean and well-cut peridots to fill the calls I keep getting for it,” says a New York gem importer. “ The market wants peridot, but not the kind dealers can provide.”

What they can provide are smaller stones , generally under 3 carats, with a green highly reminiscent of a 7Up bottle, most of them from Arizona where peridot is plentiful. But it’s the wrong kind of plenty. Because America produces almost no large stones, peridot is rarely seen in solitaire or center stone jewelry. Rather, it’s used most frequently to lend accent or create a multi-color effect. It is highly doubtful that most jewelers have seen, let alone sold, a true connoisseur’s peridot. And unless a mineralogical miracle occurs, their chances of seeing one will become even slimmer.

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Peridot, which is a member of the olivine family, depends on body mass for color beauty. Because large stones have become so rare, the green for which this gem has for centuries been praised, a hue one cutter likens to “late-summer grass,” is seldom seen these days.

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Burma Peridot