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.

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