The August Birthstones
August babies are lucky enough to be born in a month that has three birthstones to celebrate their birth month! (June is the other month that has three birthstones).
These birthstones are Peridot, the beautiful and striking lime-green gemstone; Sardonyx with its stripes of red or pink and white; and Spinel a stone found in many colours but, most notably, the red variety so easily confused with ruby.
Peridot is commonly thought of as being the birthstone of August by most Europeans, but this wasn’t always so.
Initially Sardonyx was classed as the birthstone of this glorious summer month.
This was followed by Spinel with Peridot being the late arrival to the August birthday party.
We will give a brief overview of each of the August birthstones in this article.
Peridot is a stunning, lime-green gemstone used extensively in jewellery making.
Although Peridot is believed to originate from the Latin Peridona, meaning to “give plenty”, there is some confusion over the origins of its name.
The national gemstone of Egypt, Peridot was known as the “gem of the sun”.
The peridot stones that the Eygyptians used came from a small volcanic island in the Red Sea.
Peridot is also the celebratory gemstone for the 16th Wedding Anniversary.
Confusion with Emeralds
In earlier times the two green gemstones, emerald and peridot, were often confused with each other.
It is thought that Cleopatra’s ‘emerald’ collection could well have actually been the peridot gemstone.
Similarly in Cologne Cathedral some substantial 200-carat gemstones which were originally believed to have been emerald were, you’ve guessed it … peridot.
Peridot comes from the relatively common mineral Olivine, a type of silicate made up of iron, and magnesium. Whilst Olivine is fairly common, Peridot it is actually a somewhat rare gem-quality stone which is formed deep in the earth’s mantle. Volcanic activity brings the rocks in which peridot is deposited to the surface.
The greener the colour of the Peridot the more iron content the piece contains.
Up to 95% of the world’s Peridot comes from the San Carlos Indian Apache Reservation in Arizona.
The worlds largest peridot, which weighed in at a whopping 310-carats, was discovered in Eygypt. This stone is on view at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.
In the 1990’s some peridot reserves were discovered in Pakistan where some large specimens, up to 100-carats, were found. These “Kasmir Peridots” were some of the most exquisite examples of peridots ever discovered and their beauty revived the market for peridot.
The most prized colour for Peridot is the lime-green colour with no brown or yellow hue.
A translucent stone, Peridot should ideally have no inclusions present to the naked eye.
Peridot is relatively hard-wearing, although it can be prone to fracturing on cutting.
We have found that Peridot is actually gaining in popularity. We find customers are purchasing jewellery pieces set with Peridot more now than 10 years ago and not just during the month of August for birthdays – it seems to be an all-the-year-around gemstone.
However, it is a “marmite” stone and you either love it or hate it.
It is bright, vibrant and very eye-catching. When Peridot is set piece of jewellery mixed with other stones, it really helps the colours to pop and can brighten the whole item.
As its namesake suggests, Sardonyx is a mixture of two types of mineral, Sard and Onyx, laid down in layers (hence the red or pink and white stripes).
Sardonyx is a type of chalcedony which occurs in brown, black and white as well as pink and red.
Many cameos were carved from brown-based Onyx. Indeed, Roman soldiers wore talismans with carvings of warriors and gods like Hercules or Mars, the god of war, from Sardonyx.
Sardonyx was was readily available in ancient times and therefore was inexpensive so became popular with the less wealthy.
This gemstone was believed to be lucky and bring good fortune – it is known as being the ’gamblers stone’.
Said to be particularly good with regard justice and lawsuits, for property luck and for the professions of builders, Sardonyx was also recommended for athletes and even massage therapists.
The Sardonyx gemstone symbolises stability to relationships and is said to bring good fortune to marriage and love.
It is also believed to be an excellent gem to help you feel good and lift your spirits, therefore is powerful for depression and a low mood
Just like Peridot was confused with Emerald, so Spinel has been confused with both ruby (and also sapphire) in the past.
Indeed it was only in 1783 that a mineralogist identified Spinel as being a different gemstone than ruby. Up until this time pieces thought to be ruby were actually Spinel, not helped because Spinel appeared in the same places that ruby was discovered.
Spinel’s ‘colour’ is actually transparent although it picks up impurities from the area in which it develops, and these impurities give it its colour.
The colours of Spinel range from red to purples, blue and brown and black although the brilliant red colour, resembling ruby, is the most prized.
It has been mined for centuries although was probably under-appreciated in the past. The search for ruby alternatives has increased its popularity, though, and therefore its demand.
The most famous Spinel was the “Black Prince’s Ruby” which was acquired by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1367 and was, at the time, thought to be ruby.
Spinel was set into the Royal Imperial State Crown, which is now held at the Tower of London.
Many deposits were found in gemstone-bearing gravel in Sri Lanka and also in limestones of Afghanistan. South East Asia held large specimens of Spinel, and these were mined and adorned many emperors and royalty in years gone by.
These gemstones often passed hands via the spoils of war.
Occurance in Jewellery
With a score of 7.5-8 on the hardness Moh’s Scale, so it is an ideal gemstone to be used in jewellery and is very hard wearing.
Despite this, it is relatively unusual to find Spinel in jewellery shops. Gem quality Spinel is hard to find and is actually rarer than ruby; however the gemstone is worth less than ruby and therefore is not used a lot in jewellery making.