Well, it’s the beginning of a new month and you know what that means, Billie Jean! We get to learn all about some new rocks, which really…well, ROCKS! This month, we are getting into the nitty gritty of the birthstones associated with August and I can’t wait to get this Peridot party (and other gems) started.
For each month, there are usually a couple of birthstones. That is because there is a traditional birthstone and modern day birthstone. Why, you may ask, are there two birthstones for each month? Well, that’s a good question! It is thought that throughout time, numerous cultures and civilizations associated different meanings and metaphysical powers to stones and crystals. Therefore, these ancient civilizations were unknowingly also creating the path for birthstones. There are also two zodiac signs for each month, so there’s a stone attached to each sign within the month. There are three months within the year that have three birthstones, and August is one of them (the other two are June and December). So, you lucky ducks are in for a treat! Peridot, Spinel, and Sardonyx are all associated with the month of August.
Let’s start with the gemstone that is most often connected to this month, which is Peridot. Peridot is considered one of the modern birthstones for August. As you may know, it is associated with the color green, and though there are variations in the shades of green that you see, it does not come in any other color. Why, may you ask? Peridot is the gem variety of the mineral olivine. Its chemical composition includes iron and magnesium, and iron is the cause of its attractive yellowish green colors. The gem often occurs in volcanic rocks called basalts, which are rich in these two elements. I know, you are freaking out that about that last tid- bit of information. It’s found in volcanic rocks?! Yes, yes it is. It’s also found in…well, let’s take this back a notch, okay? Don’t want to have all the fun in one paragraph!
Gem miners find Peridot as irregular nodules (rounded rocks with peridot crystals inside) in some lava flows in the United States, China, and Vietnam and, very rarely, as large crystals lining veins or pockets in certain types of solidified molten rock. Sources for the latter include Finland, Pakistan, Myanmar, and the island of Zabargad. Geologists believe both types of deposits relate to the spreading of the sea floor that occurs when the earth’s crust splits, and rocks from its mantle are pushed up to the surface. Sometimes—as in Myanmar— these rocks can be altered, deformed, and incorporated into mountain ranges by later earth movements.
Rarely, Peridot can have an extraterrestrial source, being contained in meteorites that have fallen to earth. How cool is that?! Peridot can quite literally be out of this world!
I know Peridot is SUPER cool, but we have other rocks to talk about today as well. Let’s move onto the other modern birthstone for this month: Spinel. Spinel has a pretty fascinating history, so let’s get to it!
The Spinel used in jewelry is a small part of a group of minerals that share the same crystal structure. Spinel offers a range of hues, from orange to intense “stoplight” red, vibrant pink, black, and all shades of purple, blue, and violet through bluish green. Intense reds and pinks are caused by traces of chromium. The higher the chromium content, the stronger the red hue. Orange and purple stones owe their color to a mixture of iron and chromium.
What’s fascinating is that for centuries, red and blue Spinel had been mistaken for rubies and sapphires and was set in many of Europe’s crown jewels! Talk about a masquerade! One of the most famous examples is the so-called “Black Prince’s ruby.” This historic crimson-red gem is set in England’s Imperial State Crown and displayed in the Tower of London. Smoothly polished and roughly octagonal in shape, it was probably mined in the mountains of Afghanistan. It first appeared in the historical records of fourteenth-century Spain, and was owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish Kings before Edward, Prince of Wales-the “Black Prince”-received the stone in 1367 as payment for a battle victory.
Since then, many other English monarchs, including Henry VIII, have cherished the gem. It’s outlasted them all, surviving fires, attempted theft, and World War II bombing raids, to become one of the centerpieces of England’s Crown Jewels.
I mean, could this post get any more awesome?! Well, we’re about to find out with our last birthstone of August: Sardonyx. This lesser known stone is the traditional birthstone of this month.
Sardonyx is a type of onyx (which is a variety of chalcedony, who knew?) and has straight, nearly parallel bands or layers of colors, which allow skilled gem carvers to cut away material to create cameos and intaglios with great depth and contrast. So, if you have a cameo in your jewelry box, more likely than not, it is carved from Onyx. Sardonyx has white and reddish, brownish, or yellow layers. It is easily mistaken for Carnelian, and both stones are forms of microcrystalline Quartz. There's actually no real definition on when one variety stops and the other starts, but the general rule of thumb is once Carnelian reaches a very dark brown color due iron impurities, it is said to be Sardonyx. Ancient civilizations from the near East and Europe created many amazing Sardonyx carvings.
Well, ladies and gents, this concludes our journey through the gems of August. I hope you have enjoyed reading the fun facts associated with these marvelous stones! As always, here at Key West Local Luxe, we can help you find the perfect stone for you or a loved one. Stop on by or hop on the website for all the rocks your heart desires!