Thursday, July 28, 2011

August Birthstone Color is Yellow Green with Peridot


With the ending of July we look to the next month to see what is in store. So we ask what is the birthstone for August? Late summer, with its blazing heat and abundant greenery, is a time for cooling activities, light, summery clothing, and a laid-back lifestyle. An August party is no time to bring out the serious diamonds or elegant pearls—it’s a time to throw on a breezy sundress, a pair of wedges, and a pair of earrings in August’s birthstone color, olive green. August’s birthstone, the peridot, is one of the few gemstones that naturally occurs in olive green, and is in fact only ever found in that shade. That works out well for those with August birthdays or those who simply love the stone, because olive green is one of those colors that makes everyone look tanned and gorgeous.  

Although birthstones for many of the months are often disputed, the birthstone for August is almost always listed as peridot. Peridot is a type of olivine known for the presence of iron—a mineral that gives a hue ranging from yellow-green to a deep green with hints of brown. Olivine is found in lava rock deposits, but true gem-quality peridot is rare and found only in select lava deposits and some meteorites. Although it is mined all over the world, most mines tend to be small and produce only a small quantity of the gem every year. Besides for the world-famous peridot deposit in Pakistan, the peridot is found in Myanmar, which is known for its silky texture and light inclusions that provide extra gold sparkle. Peridot from Arizona, with its deep brown-green hue, is especially valued in Native American jewelry.


Long before it was designated the official birthstone of August; peridot was used in ancient Egypt for jewelry used by priests. Peridot jewelry dating back to the second century BC has been found, and those stones have been traced to a deposit on a small island in the Red Sea. The ancient Romans treasured the peridot for its color—a deep green with flecks of gold—that did not change no matter the lighting. Unlike emeralds, which could look black in low light, peridots hold onto their green and gold vibrancy even in candlelight, giving them the nickname “emeralds of the evening.” In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, August-born people seeking peridot sometimes turned to ancient Egyptian artifacts to find the rare and valuable stones. Besides for being named the birthstone of August during the era, peridot was also valued during medieval times for use in churches and on church items like chalices. Even today, peridot deposits remain few and far between, preserving the mysterious aura of this spectacular stone.

The 1990’s saw an unprecedented surge in popularity for the August birthstone after an incredibly rich deposit of the stone was found in a high mountain pass in Pakistan. The craggy mountain peak could only be mined for a few months a year, during which time peridots of never-before-seen quality and size were carried down the mountain and entered the gemstone market. These stones were named the “Kashmir peridots” and have produced some of the finest gemstones of up to 100 carats, all gleaming with the peridot’s unique golden green.  

If you enter the phrase, “what is the birthstone for August,” you may receive a confusing answer. Is it peridot, chrysolite, or olivine? The simple answer is that all three of these terms refer to the same stone, although the current favored term for gem-quality specimens is peridot, which is derived from the Greek word meaning to “give richness.”

Although peridot ranks only a 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, but nonetheless can be used very effectively in August birthstone jewelry. Peridots are usually cut in accordance with their natural crystal structure in faceted or table cuts, in either round or oval shapes. Especially large peridots are often cut into unique designs designed specifically for that crystal, because peridots are infamous for being difficult to cut and polish. Coarser inclusions must be carefully polished by a master gem cutter to avoid cracking the stone, but once the stone is cut and polished, it is extremely durable and wears well in a jewelry setting.  

To say that green is a popular gemstone color is an understatement. Emeralds are more popular than ever, turquoise is having its moment in spotlight, and now peridots are becoming better known both by jewelry designers and consumers. The recent influx of raw peridot crystals onto the market has lowered the price and made peridot affordable and accessible for everyone without diminishing its unique beauty. Those looking for a birthstone for August can find many varieties of jewelry set with peridot, from earrings to rings to necklaces. Those looking for large, well-cut peridots are rare and expensive, but smaller stones of good quality are found easily. Even if you were not born in August, the peridot makes a gorgeous addition to a late-summer tan and wardrobe.

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