The Romans called peridot “the emerald of the evening” because its color didn’t change in different lights. This romantic green stone is the more popular of August’s two birthstones. The other, sardonyx, is a type of onyx known for its banded layers of white and reddish brown. Either one makes a perfect traditional gift for your loved ones born in August.
Peridots –the gem form of olivine — are always green, but their intensity depends on how much iron is in each particular stone. The yellowish tone of peridot the august birthstone makes it a warmer green than other gemstones. Usually jewelers cut peridots into facets, to show off its crystal shape. Cushions, ovals, rounds and emerald cuts are all popular for peridots. Occasionally you’ll see th
em as cabochons, especially if a stone has a lot of inclusions. At 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, they’re not one of the hardest stones. But with a little care, they stand up well in jewelry. Be especially careful with rings. Remove your peridot rings before doing dishes, playing sports or other manual activities.
Adorn like an Egyptian, and Other Peridot History
Peridots have a long international history. The gem’s name comes from the Arabic word “faridat,” which means “gem.” It shows up in the Bible under the Hebrew name “pitdah.”
Were Cleopatra’s famous emeralds really peridots? Some historians think so. This was a popular stone in ancient Egyptian jewelry dating back at least to 200 BC. Back then the main source of peridots was Zabargad, a tiny volcanic island in the Red Sea, 45 miles off the Egyptian coast. The Crusaders brought peridots to Europe, where they used them to decorate medieval churches. Napoleon Bonaparte gifted his love Josephine with peridot.
Not only has this gem spread all over the world, but extraterrestrials might be wearing them, too. Scientists have found the mineral olivine in meteors, on the moon and on Mars. What better way to enhance the green skin of Martians than with this perfect green gem?
A Kashmiri Stash
Peridot lapsed in popularity for a couple of centuries. But in the mid-1990s, it made a major comeback. A bountiful stash of the world’s best peridots was discovered high in the mountains of Pakistan. You’ll find these sold as “Kashmiri peridots.” Gemstone cutters have cut perfect, huge peridots of more than 100 carats from this rich deposit.
Sardonyx August Birthstone
Unlike the clear green beauty of peridot, sardonyx is opaque and, one might even say, manly. It comes in earth colors of browns and reds with alternating white bands. Ancient Romans and Greeks carried sardonyx talismans engraved with Hercules or Mars as they charged into battle. Sardonyx lore claims the stone brings protection and strength, and enhances vigor, stamina, willpower and integrity. Supposedly it brings stability and lasting happiness to partnerships and attracts good fortune. Desert dwellers might want to carry one in accordance with the ancient belief that sardonyx protected wearers from scorpion stings.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, sardonyx august birthstone make beautiful cameos. Their banding enhances the details of carved features.
Gemstone miners find sardonyx around the world, especially in Germany, Uruguay, Czechoslovakia, the United States, and India, where the finest specimens are harvested.
So who’s on your August birthday shopping list? A desert dweller or soldier? Sardonyx is your gift solution. A Cleopatra wannabe? Buy her a peridot. These two beautiful august birthstones offer endless gift possibilities.