What is August Birthstone
The August birthstone is actually one of three birthstones: Peridot, spinel and sardonyx are the three birthstones for August and they come in a variety of shapes and colors.
August Birthstone – Peridot
Though peridot is widely recognized by its brilliant lime green glow, the origin of this gemstone’s name is unclear. Most scholars agree that the word “peridot” is derived from the Arabic faridat, which means “gem;” however, some believe it’s rooted in the Greek word peridona, meaning “giving plenty.” Perhaps that’s why peridot was, according to lore, associated with prosperity and good fortune.
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 once symbolized the tears of Pele, the volcano goddess of fire who controls the flow of lava. Rarely, peridot is also found inside meteorites.
Peridot’s signature green color comes from the composition of the mineral itself—rather than from trace impurities, as with many gemstones. That’s why this is one of few gemstones that only comes in one color, though shades may vary from yellowish-green to olive to brownish-green, depending on how much iron is present.
Though it is known as “the Evening Emerald” because of its sparkling green hue, peridot looks good any time of day.
Most of the world’s peridot supply comes from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Other sources are China, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Africa.
Peridot only measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. So, while the raw crystal is prone to cracking during cutting, the finished gemstones are robust and easy to wear.
Peridot Meaning and History
Peridot jewelry dates back as far as the second millennium BC. These ancient Egyptian gemstones came from deposits on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea called Topazios, now known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad.
Ancient Egyptians called peridot the “gem of the sun,” believing it protected its wearer from terrors of the night. Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famed emerald collection may have actually been peridot.
Through medieval times, people continued to confuse these two green gemstones. The 200-carat gemstones adorning one of the shrines in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral were long believed to be emeralds as well, yet they are also peridots.
This gemstone saw a revival in the 1990s, when new deposits were discovered in Pakistan. These deposits produced some of the finest peridots ever found. In fact, some of these “Kashmir peridots” measured more than 100 carats.
The most productive peridot deposit in the world is located on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. An estimated 80 to 95 percent of the world’s peridot supply is found here.
Thanks to these rich gemstone deposits, the modern demand for peridots can now be easily met, giving people born in August affordable options for wearing this beautiful green birthstone.
Peridot is the yellowish green to greenish yellow gem variety of the mineral olivine. Throughout history, peridot has often been confused with other gems such as topaz and emerald. The Red Sea island of Topazios, a purported source of the name “topaz,” actually produced peridot. The Shrine of the Three Holy Kings in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral is decorated with 200 carats of gems that were believed to be emeralds but are, in fact, the August birthstone peridot. Some historians even speculate that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection may have been comprised of peridot.
The word “peridot” comes from the Arabic faridat, meaning gem. This August birthstone was valued in many ancient and medieval cultures. It appeared in priests’ jewelry as early as the second century BCE and later in the chalices and churches of medieval Europe. The peridot birthstone has also been used for centuries as a protective talisman, shielding the owner from evil spirits and “terrors of the night.”
Where is Peridot Found?
Peridot, the August birthstone, has an amazing story. Although most of the peridot seen in jewelry today comes from sources such as China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Tanzania, Vietnam and the United States, some journied to Earth on meteorites while others are found in exotic locales like Peridot Beach, Hawaii, where the sands shimmer a luminous green.
The Egyptian island of Zabargad (the name now given to Topazios) is the oldest recorded source of this August birthstone. Mining may have begun around 340–279 BCE. Although the island produced beautiful peridot, its harsh conditions earned it ominous names like Island of Death and Ophiodes (“snake island”). Peridot from Zabargad has been prized for centuries and is still highly desirable. The finest specimens of this birthstone for August can be found in prestigious museums around the world.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is another important source of the peridot birthstone. On the northern slope of Kyaukpon, a mountainous region near the gem city of Mogok, loose peridot crystals can sometimes be found in crevices. The finest-quality peridot from this locality has deep color and superb transparency.
Arizona is the main source of this August birthstone in the United States. Massive volcanic eruptions many thousands of years ago sent rivers of lava spilling across the desert landscape of what is today the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where some Apache families have worked the mines for decades.
This August birthstone has also come to Earth via pallasite (made of nickel-iron and olivine) meteorites. Thousands of meteorites have hit the earth, many of them containing olivine, but only a few have had gem-quality peridot.
How to Buy Peridot
Whether you’re shopping for a birthstone for an August birthday or a 16th wedding anniversary, peridot makes the perfect gift that will leave others green with envy.
Peridot can be assessed with the same criteria as diamonds, using color, clarity, cut, and carat weight to determine value.
The finest peridots have a lovely lime green hue without any hints of brown or yellow. Quality gems have no inclusions visible to the naked eye, though dark spots may be evident under a microscope. When you look closely, due to double refraction, you may see two of each facet on a peridot.
Thanks to rich deposits of peridot that were discovered in Pakistan in the 1990s, the gemstone is relatively inexpensive in smaller sizes, but prices increase for larger stones. Commercially-mined peridots typically measure six to 13 millimeters, so faceted stones are generally about one carat in size.
Flawless peridots over five carats are very rare, though gemstones as large as 22 carats have been cut from basalt rock in Arizona—where most of the world’s peridot is found. The world’s largest peridot is a 310-carat gemstone in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Thankfully, there is now enough raw material on the market so that the perfect peridot can be found to fit any taste or budget.
Sardonyx – August Birthstone
Sardonyx combines alternating layers of sard and onyx—two types of the layered mineral chalcedony—to create a reddish zebra-striped gemstone with white bands.
Its name, similarly, combines sard (referencing the ancient Persian city, Sardis—in present-day Turkey—where the red stone was found) with onyx (from the Greek word of the same spelling, which meant “nail or claw.”)
Sard ranges in color 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 color.
Sardonyx, like onyx, shows layers of parallel bands—instead of the chaotic, curved bands that compose agate, another type of chalcedony.
The finest examples of sardonyx, which display sharp contrasts between layers, are found in India. Other sources include Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, 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 jewelry. It is often carved into cameos, intaglios, and brooches to show the color contrast between layers.
History of Sardonyx
Sardonyx has been popular for centuries, dating back more than 4,000 years ago to the Second Dynasty of Egypt.
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.
Sardonyx was a popular stone for Roman seals and signet rings that were used to imprint wax emblems on official documents, since hot wax doesn’t stick to this gemstone.
During Renaissance times, sardonyx was associated with eloquence. Public speakers and orators wore it to aid clear thinking and communication.
Unlike rare gemstones that were historically limited to wealthy royals, sardonyx has been popular with elite and regular folk alike. Relatively common and inexpensive, sardonyx is a beautiful gemstone that is affordable enough to join any collection.
How to Buy Sardonyx
Sardonyx makes a great gift for people born in August who want something a little different than the traditional peridot or spinel birthstone. Readily available and relatively inexpensive, sardonyx makes an affordable addition to anyone’s collection.
The quality factors of sardonyx are not as clearly defined as other gemstones like diamonds, but generally the 4Cs still apply: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Ask an American Gem Society jeweler for help selecting the best gemstones.
The most attractive sardonyx shows a high contrast between reddish layers of sard stone and white bands of onyx. It may be translucent or opaque, seldom showing flaws or fractures.
Sardonyx is widely available and moderately priced in sizes up to 10 carats. The most common cut is cabochon, though it is popularly carved into cameos, intaglios, inlays, and brooches to emphasize the contrast between layers.
Artificial and imitation sardonyx has been produced from common chalcedony and plain agate as far back as Roman times, according to writings from first-century naturalist, Pliny. Some gems are also stained with iron oxide pigment or treated with nitric acid to enhance color.
These enhancements make stones less valuable than natural sardonyx, so watch for imitations when buying these gemstones. A certified American Gem Society jeweler can help you select a genuine sardonyx stone.
Spinel – August Birthstone
The spinel is often mistaken for either a ruby or pink sapphire, as it can resemble both. In fact, some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel. But its distinguishing features, like its octahedral crystal structure and single refraction, are what sets it apart from other gemstones. Spinel also has a lower Mohs hardness than ruby and sapphire.
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, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania, and the United States.
Vivid red is the most desirable color of spinel gemstones, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink, and bright orange. The more affordable gemstones are often those with paler colors, like lavender. You may also find spinel in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow, or brown.
When shopping for spinel, a high-quality gemstone should have no visible inclusions. The more inclusions, the less valuable the gemstone. Spinel birthstones can be found in various cuts such as octagons, trillions, squares, rounds, ovals, pears, and cushions.
History of Spinel
Spinel could easily earn the title of “Most Underappreciated Gem.” Throughout history, spinel was often confused with ruby and sapphire.
Mines of Central and Southeast Asia yielded large spinel crystals known as Balas rubies, which became valuable property of emperors and kings. They were often passed along as the spoils of war.
Some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel. Large red gems, such as the “Black Prince’s Ruby” and the “Timur Ruby” in the Crown Jewels of England were confirmed to be large red spinels. Many English monarchs, including Henry VIII, had prized spinel gemstones.
One member of the spinel group, magnetite, has magnetic properties. As early as the 11th century, mariners used this form of spinel known as lodestone to magnetize their compasses.
How to Buy Spinel
When it comes to color, spinel has a variety of choices, with some being rarer than others. The most desirable is red spinel, followed by cobalt blue, hot pink, and then vivid orange. The more affordable gemstones are paler in color, like lavender. Spinel also appears in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow, or brown.
Spinel that is devoid of inclusions to the eye is most valuable, although some inclusions can be quite beautiful, reflecting the gemstone’s octahedral crystal growth.
The spinel is a hard and durable gemstone and can be found in various cuts like octagons, trillions, squares, and rounds. It can also be found in fancy shapes, like ovals, pears, and cushions. This makes spinel ideal for almost any type of jewelry.
Discover The Birthstones for Each Month
If you’re curious about the birthstones associated with each month, click the links below to learn more:
January Birthstone | February Birthstone | March Birthstone | April Birthstone | May Birthstone | June Birthstone | July Birthstone | August Birthstone | September Birthstone | October Birthstone | November Birthstone | December Birthstone
Last Updated on March 19, 2023 by JewelryNStyle