Yes that’s right, August Birthstones. You probably only believed there was one, the famed peridot. However, according to the American Gem Society, the original birthstone for August was sardonyx, then came along peridot. Finally, in 2016, Spinel was the last stone join the group. Think about it, with so many colors to choose from, an August baby will have an overabundance of decisions to make! Let’s take some time to look at each stone individually to help your decision making a whole lot easier.
The following is an excerpt from Fire Mountain Gems: Gem Notes – gem information. “Sardonyx can be traced back four thousand years to Ancient Egypt. For most of its history, this stone has been used to create cameos and intaglios. In Ancient Rome, women wore sardonyx necklaces with cameos of Venus. In doing so, women hoped to harness the power of the goddess of love. Soldiers also wore sardonyx rings and carvings containing images of Mars, the god of war, into battle as a means of protection. Sardonyx became a popular stone for Roman seals and signet rings. This became important when imprinting on official documents. The hot wax wouldn’t stick to the stone, and therefore was the perfect choice.”
Still unclear about sardonyx? If you look you will see it is a compound word. Sard and onyx. Yes, both are real stones! Both come from the chalcedony family. Both are similar to agate, and therefore banding in the stone is common. Interestingly enough, the Romans started dyeing sardonyx to enhance the colors in the stone. Later on, the Germans took over the cutting and dyeing of agate and carry on this tradition still today.
There is so much history and lore surrounding peridot, it is hard to know where to begin. According to multiple sources, the word peridot is borrowed from the Arabic “faridat,” which means “gem.” However, some believe that it comes from the Greek word, “peridona” which means “giving plenty.” This may explain why peridot, according to legend, is associated with prosperity and good fortune. Moving on to the basics, peridot is known for its green color. The technical term for peridot is olivine. Sometimes it is yellow green to olive- or bottle green color. This is mostly due to the iron content. Egyptians believed peridot to be, “the gem of the sun,” but it has also been called “the evening emerald.” The latter because people would mix peridot up for other stones, mainly, emerald.
The Crusaders brought peridot to Europe in the Middle Ages from the St Johns Island in the Red Sea. Today, most of the peridot comes from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Other sources come from China, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Africa. Lastly, it should be noted that in raw crystal form, it is prone to cracking. Once they become finished gemstones, they measure 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. Peridot are sturdy and easy to wear.
Spinel is the most misunderstood stone. This can be attributed to the fact that spinel is often mined near or around corundum (i.e. sapphires and rubies). Throughout history, the mix-up with this stone has been amazing but understandable.Take for example, the Black Prince Crown. In 1367 a large egg-sized red stone, believed to be a ruby was presented to Edward, the Black Prince. This became payment for defeating a Moorish prince. The stone was placed in a crown and worn by the Black Prince. Over the years the stone passed through several owners. Today it resided in the British Imperial Crown in the Tower of London. Another famous stone, “The Timur Ruby” made for Queen Victoria in 1853. As you have probably guessed, this gigantic stone (352.5 carat) is in fact, a spinel. It wasn’t until 1783 spinel was chemically differentiated from corundum. Interesting, no?
What makes spinel so unique? For one thing, the plethora of colors. Vivid red, is the most revered followed by cobalt blue, bright pink, and bright orange. Additionally you can find paler colors of black, violet, blue-gray, and yellow colors. With colors galore and a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, spinel is a great choice. So, August Birthstones, take your pick, and you do have a lot to choose from!
Gem Stones, Hall, Cathy, 1994. DK Publishing, Inc, New York, NY. pages 64, 90, 113