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Peridot Gem Location, San Carlos, Arizona

A view looking north toward the low-lying edge of Peridot Mesa, near San Carlos, Arizona


Gem quality peridot or olivine is a magnesium, iron silicate colored by trace amounts of iron. It varies in color from light yellowish green to deep green to brown. Although occurring in many places around the world, few have produced significant amounts of gem material. Since ancient times peridot came from St. Johns Island in the Red Sea and the alluvial gravels of Myanmar. Recently, beautiful gem peridot crystals from Afghanistan have appeared on the world market. In this century the bulk of gem peridot has been mined from Peridot Mesa near San Carlos, Arizona (See Above). This deposit is on the Apache Indian Reservation and is mined by freelance tribal miners. Peridot Mesa is comprised of a huge basalt flow containing fractured masses of olivine. As much as 20 percent of the volume of the flow consists of shattered peridot. Primarily by use of hand tools, tribal miners break the basalt/olivine rock and screen out the larger fragments of gem material. Most of these fragments are rather small and are tumble polished and used as beads. The larger gemmy fragments can be cut into beautiful stones, but fine San Carlos gems larger than five carats are uncommon.