Thursday, April 24, 2014

Peridot: The Gift of Hawaii's Goddess Pele

Bezel Set Peridot Cocktail Ring with Diamonds

Found in abundance throughout the volcanic islands of Hawaii, peridot has come to be associated with Pele, Hawaii's fiery goddess. Hawaii's earliest inhabitants, descendants from Tahiti and other Polynesian Islands, believed that Pele was brought forth by Haumea (Mother Earth) as molten lava.{1} In one legend surrounding the origins of the volcanic islands, Pele seeks escape from her jealous sister, the goddess of water.


Pele traveled the seas until she arrived in the Pacific Ocean, where she began setting up house, erupting into what is now known as Niihau. Unfortunately, her sister sabotaged her efforts by sending massive waves to snuff her fires. Pele continued birthing islands, beginning with Kauai next, then Oahu, then the Big Island, then Molokai, and then Maui. Every time, her sister is said to have frustrated her efforts with tumultuous waves that extinguished her efforts.

Pele finally found rest, after returning to the Big Island, when she forged the highest of all volcanoes on the island, Kilauea. It was here that the early Hawaiians discovered Pele, in her home within the great fire pit called Halemaumau.{1} With this monumental achievement, Pele reached a stalemate with her sister. To this day, when Kilauea erupts, the sea surges in an effort to hinder the molten progression.

Over the years, Pele's fierce activities upon the island inspired fear and awe within the hearts of the Hawaiian people. The traditions of the lei and hula dancing are derivatives of sacred offerings and ceremonies intended to mollify the fiery goddess. Wherever there is volcanic activity, Pele is said to be near. Some have even seen her walking along the lava beds just before an eruption{1}, while others believe they've seen her face within the gentler eruptions of molten lava.{4}

Her influence remains a powerful force among today's Hawaiian natives. Despite the very destructive effects of this goddesses's activities, Hawaiians never equated her actions with ill-intent.{2} Since she was the original creator of the islands, natives believe that when lava destroys their homes and property, Pele is simply reclaiming what already belongs to her.{2}

Amid her fiery acts, Pele sometimes leaves a trace of herself behind. These are called Pele's tears, Pele's hair, and Pele's diamonds. Pele's tears form when globules of hot lava shoot out so swiftly from a crater that they cool in mid-air. Pele's hair are fine strands of volcanic glass which sometime stream behind Pele's tears. It is Pele's diamonds, however, that are the most intriguing to gem lovers.

These small spheres of peridot, considered by many as gifts from the goddess of the Islands, pepper a few of the beaches on Hawaii's islands. Peridot is one of the only gemstones which forms deep within the mantle of the earth. The only way for it to reach the surface is through intense volcanic activity like that which takes place on the Hawaiian Islands. Spewing forth from the mouth of these mighty volcanoes, these pebbles of green are hidden within the hardened lava. As the waves and wind erode the crusty lava, these tiny gemstones emerge.

It would seem that Pele favors the island of Kauai, for on the beautiful green island lies a unique green beach called Papakolea, the sands of which are comprised in abundance with Pele's diamonds. The continual action of the waves against the lava outcroppings break off chunks of the lava.

Continuing their work, the waves gently 'wash' away all remaining cinder stone, leaving behind tiny pebbles of peridot that are as smooth and weathered as sea glass. It is rumored that there are only four such beaches strewn with peridot in the world. The other three are in Guam, the Galapagos Islands, and in Norway.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews


  1. Feinstein, Stephen. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: Adventure, Explore, Discover. Enslow Publishers, Inc.: 2009.
  2. Lopes, Rosaly M.C. The Volcano Adventure Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  3. Nimmo, H. Arlo. Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai'i: A History. McFarland, 2011.
  4. Tufty, Barbara. 1001 Questions Answered About: Earthquakes, Floods and Other Natural Disasters. Courier Dover Publications, 2013.
  5. Wikipedia. "Papakolea Beach." Accessed April 19, 2014.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

French Bridal Ring Traditions

Very little seems to be written about the exchange of bridal rings in France. What little there is appears somewhat contradictory without traceable reference sources. The few bits of information available are intriguing enough, however, to warrant a brief post on French bridal ring traditions. 

According to Planet Wedding, the French exchange wedding rings which are engraved in such a way that when they're united on the wedding day they form a complete whole. The bride's ring features her name and part of the wedding date, and the groom's ring bears his name and the remainder of the wedding date. The source of this information is not provided in Planet Wedding's book.

Though the custom of wearing diamond engagement rings is extremely popular in the US, it appears that the French are not as inclined to choose diamonds, and when they do, according to one resident, they opt for smaller sizes, ranging from 0.3 - 0.4 carats. The source of this tidbit, a woman from America who married a Frenchman, reports that among her French friends the choice in wedding bands tends toward simple bands or mixed-stone rings {cited}.

As reported by Expatica, the French are believed to opt for three interwoven bands of varying colors. Again, no reference point is offered for this information and a search on Google for multi-colored French wedding bands directs the seeker to Cartier, creator of the famed Cartier Trinity Rings. It is not clear whether this is truly French tradition, or whether this is simply one French company's brand of romance.

According to Vicki Howard, who wrote the book Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Traditions, the custom of exchanging wedding rings in France was tied up in the liturgical practice of the prevailing religious tradition, French Catholic. She notes that the first account of both men and women donning rings during the wedding ceremony appears in the 16th century. She makes no mention of the traditions surrounding the engagement ring in French culture.
  The most credible source for information on current French bridal ring practice comes from the author of the blog, Becoming MadameIn a guest post written for EmilyintheGlass, this American woman describes her firsthand experience of planning a French wedding according to her family-to-be's strict French traditions. As she notes, these traditions may not be customary to all of France, but they certainly were important to her new Catholic French family.

She first discusses the tradition of the engagement ring. While her fiance opted for what the French call a "Hollywood proposal," where he got down on one knee and presented her with a ring, this gesture was completely lost on his mother, who was "less than pleased" to discover that she was wearing her engagement ring prior to the customary les fiançailles. This event is a formal party during which the parents of the bride and groom meet for the first time over a hearty feast and the couple is blessed during Mass. This is also the traditional time for the presentation of the engagement ring.

According to French tradition, a betrothal is proposed by a simple question posed by the man, "Will you marry me?" If the woman accepts, then the man must don white gloves before asking her father for permission. Once consent is granted, announcements are made and the couple goes out together to purchase the engagement ring, a gift presented by the man in front of their families during the les fiançailles. While ring bearers are not a part of the traditional French wedding ceremony, there is a custom akin to American bridal shows called Salon du marriage. During these trade fairs, couples can choose their wedding attire and stationery, sample the wares of various caterers, hire their music and photography, and even choose their wedding rings.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, our Madame left out the "little" detail of exchanging the wedding rings, but she did share the delightful tradition of une Pièce Montéea pyramid made of "small, golden, cream-filled balls called les choux mounted with caramel glaze." This is the stand-in for the many-tiered wonder we call a wedding cake, and it sounds absolutely delightful to me!