"Wear a Peridot or for thee, No conjugal fidelity, The August born without this stone, `Tis said, must live unloved; alone." – Gregorian birthstone poem ***
The original birthstone for August was sardonyx, and then peridot was added – becoming August’s primary gem. Recently the American Gem Society added spinel. This means August is one of only three months represented by three gems (along with June and December).
The History of the Peridot
Peridot jewellery dates back as far as the second millennium BC. These ancient Egyptian gems came from deposits on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, called Topazios (today known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad). The stones were only mined at night because it was believed they were not easily seen in daylight – although it was more likely a result of the island being infested with snakes.
Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famed emerald collection may have actually been peridot. Through medieval times, people continued to confuse these two green gems.
Where is Peridot found?
Peridot is the rare gem-quality variety of the common mineral olivine, which forms deep inside the earth’s mantle and is brought to the surface by volcanoes. In Hawaii, peridot symbolizes the tears of Pele, the volcano goddess of fire who controls the flow of lava. Rarely, peridot is also found inside meteorites.
Most of the world’s peridot supply today comes from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Other sources are China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Hawaii, South Africa, Egypt and Tanzania, etc.
Peridot’s signature green colour comes from the composition of the mineral itself, rather than from trace impurities, as is the case with many gems. That’s why this is one of few stones that only comes in one colour, though shades may vary from yellowish-green to olive to brownish-green, depending how much iron is present.
Peridot is difficult to polish and easy to scratch. It is often step-cut or cut in a variety of ways to improve its colour and reduce the risk of the stone cracking. Peridot measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, so while the raw crystal is prone to cracking during cutting, the finished gemstones are fairly robust and easy to wear.
Things you might not have known
Though peridot is widely recognized by its brilliant lime green glow, the origin of this gem’s name is unclear. Most scholars agree that the word “peridot” is derived from the Arabic faridat which means “gem,” but some believe it’s rooted in the Greek word peridona, meaning “giving plenty.” Perhaps that’s why peridot is associated with prosperity and good fortune.
One of the most famous peridots is a 46.16 carat stone that was extracted in Pakistan and can be seen today in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
- The most famous peridot jewellery collection comes in the form of a tiara, necklace and earrings owned by the Austrian Grand Duchess Isabella.
Now for a look at the other August birthstones, Sardonyx and Spinel.
Interesting facts about Sardonyx
- Sardonyx combines alternating layers of sard and onyx—two types of the layered mineral chalcedony — to create a reddish zebra-striped stone with white bands.
Sard ranges in colour from yellowish red to reddish brown, depending on how much iron oxide is present. Sard is easily confused with carnelian, another type of chalcedony that is slightly softer and lighter in colour.
Sardonyx has been popular for centuries, dating back to the Second Dynasty of Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans went to battle wearing sardonyx talismans engraved with images of heroes and gods like Hercules and Mars. They believed the stone could harness the bravery of those figures, granting them courage, victory and protection on the battlefield.
The finest examples of sardonyx, which display sharp contrasts between layers, are found in India. Other sources include Brazil, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Uruguay and the United States.
Measuring 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, sardonyx is widely available and relatively inexpensive as gems, beads, and jewellery. It is often carved into cameos, intaglios and brooches to show the colour contrast between layers.
Interesting facts about Spinel
Spinel is often assumed to be other gemstones because it tends to resemble either a ruby or sapphire. In fact, some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel.
Significant deposits of spinel have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It has also been found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Tanzania and the U.S.
Vivid red is the most desirable colour of spinel gemstones, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink and bright orange. The more affordable stones are often those with paler colours, like lavender. You may also find spinel in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. So many choices!
Mines of central and Southeast Asia yielded large spinel crystals known as Balas rubies, which became valuable property of emperors and kings, and often passed along as the spoils of war.
Here are some beautiful pieces of Peridot, Sardonyx and Spinel Jewellery – some of which are available at Tinsel gallery. For a custom made piece, contact Studio Loubser or visit the website for more information.