If you or a loved one has an August birthday, you are in luck! August, like the months of December and June, is one of only three months to have multiple gemstones from which to choose. Sardonyx was the original August birthstone, then later peridot was added and became the best known August birthstone. Most recently, those born in August can also choose the lovely spinel as their birthstone gem.
Because peridot is recognized by most people as the principal August birthstone, this is the gem we will be concentrating on here. No one really knows where the name ‘peridot’ came from, but many scholars believe the name comes from the Arabic word ‘faradat’which means ‘gem.’ Others say the name is derived from the Greek word ‘peridona’ meaning ‘giving plenty.’
But whatever the name’s origin, unlike most other gems with the exception of diamonds, the actual gem is formed deep in the mantle of the earth, and is brought to the surface by volcanoes. So it’s not really a surprise that in Hawaii, peridot gemstones are thought to be the tears of the goddess Pele, who is the ruler of fire and lava flow. Perhaps this is fitting for those born in August in the Southern United States, as this tends to be one of our hottest months!
Peridots of more than 100 carats were found in Pakistan in the 1990’s, known as the Kashmir peridots and sparked a new interest in the stone. The largest cut peridot, a 310 carat specimen, resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Peridot is also literally, out of this world, having been discovered on the surface of the planet Mars and traces have also been found in samples collected from the Wild2 Comet and are believed to be some 4.5 billion years old!
Unlike many gemstones, whose color comes from trace impurities within the stone, peridot’s green color comes from the stone itself. Peridot only comes in one color, a rarity in the world of gems, but can vary in shade depending on how much iron is present in the mineral. Today, the global supply of peridot (80 to 90 percent) is mined from Arizona’s Apache San Carlos Reservation, with other supplies coming from China as well as Myanmar, Pakistan, and Africa.
One of the oldest known gemstones, peridot has a fascinating history and these beautiful gems were worn by the ancient Egyptians, who called the peridot the ‘gem of the sun.’ Some historians believe that Cleopatra, who was known for her famous emerald collection, was actually wearing peridot jewelry rather than emeralds. Even a shrine in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral, long thought to be encrusted with emeralds, has been found to be composed of peridots as well.
The myths and lore surrounding peridot are equally fascinating, with the ancients believing the stone had the power to dissolve enchantments. The gem was also used as a medical remedy, powdered to cure asthma and the stone held under the tongue to quench the thirst of a patient suffering from a fever. The book of Exodus in the Bible describes the high priest’s breastplate, inlaid with precious stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Peridot is thought to have been one of those stones.
Although lovely peridot has no direct connection to the Emerald Isle, it is known as ‘the Evening Emerald’ as its hue looks beautiful any time of day. Handcrafted in Ireland, this beautiful sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a peridot stone set as the heart would make the perfect gift for a loved one or friend born in August or as a fine gift for yourself! A matching peridot pendant and peridot earrings would be a beautiful and thoughtful addition to complete the set.