August's Birthstones – Peridot and Sardonyx
August has two pretty birthstones: the modern birthstone for August is Peridot, a soothing green volcanic gemstone, and the traditional August birthstone is sardonyx.
Tiffany & Co.'s Gregorian Birthstone Poem, published in 1870, has this to say about August's traditional Sardonyx birthstone ...
"Wear a sardonyx or for thee,
No conjugal felicity;
The August-born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved and lone."
Peridot became the modern birthstone for August in 1912 following discussion amongst the members of the American National Association of Jewellers, who wanted an excuse to boost sales of more expensive gemstones.
What is peridot?
Peridot is the gemstone quality variant of the mineral olivine, a beautiful yellow-green crystal formed deep beneath the earth's surface. Most peridot found on earth made its way to the surface in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, but some arrived here in pallasite meteorites (see image below), which scientists believe may have been formed from an extinct planet that once orbited between Mars and Jupiter.
There are several theories as to how peridot got its name. It could be from the Arabic "faridat", meaning gem, the Anglo-Noman "Pedoretés", meaning a kind of opal, or the old French word "Peritot" meaning golden.
Peridot occurs in shades of green ranging from the yellowish-green of leaves at the end of summer, to a deep olive. The deeper coloured stones are considered the most precious. A recent deposit discovered in Pakistan in the 1990s has a wealth of large, clear high quality peridots in a rich emerald green.
Most peridots occur in gems smaller than 3 carats, but the Smithsonian Institute has a cut peridot in its collection that weighs 310 carats!
So is the T silent? That's up to you! In some cultures peridot is pronounced "peri-doh", and in others "Peri-dott". Both are correct! Peridot reached its peak of modern popularity during World War II, when it was considered a cheerful and affordable gem in austere times. We think it deserves to be top of the gemstone charts again!
What is sardonyx?
Sardonyx is a form of chalcedony with stripes of orange-red and white. It's name comes from Onyx, meaning fingernail (the ancient name given to a black and white banded chalcedony) and Sardis, an ancient Persian city in what is now Turkey, where the orange stone 'sard' was found – sard meaning reddish-brown.
Sardonyx is fairly abundant and versatile. For jewellery use it is often polished en cabochon, or carved through the layers with cameos or intaglios to create an image of white on red, or red on white.
What does peridot symbolise?
Transformation, strength and morality. In fact, just as green on earth symbolises abundance, health and healing (and all things good), so are those traits reflected in the green gemstone peridot.
What does sardonyx symbolise?
Protection and strength. Sardonyx has long been used as a protective talisman. It also symbolises happiness and is an ideal gift for a happy marriage.
Peridot healing powers* Wearing peridot can assist in overcoming depression and fear, and can help increase confidence and self-esteem. Peridot can also help in breaking addictions.
Powdered peridot, when consumed in liquid, is a cure for madness!
Letting sunlight shine through a peridot gemstone onto the chest of an asthma sufferer was thought to ease breathing difficulties and restore calm.
Sardonyx healing powers*
Sardonyx is said to heal tumours and strengthen bones, but please don't take our word for that – it's an old superstitious belief!
Wearing sardonyx is also said to alleviate depression and improve self-control.
*NOTE: Any medical 'advice' contained in these articles is not to be taken as proven. It is merely based on historic superstition and belief. If you are suffering any worrying symptoms, please seek the help of your doctor or trained medical professional before seeking the help of a gemstone!
Peridot superstitions and beliefs
Peridot can assist in finding lost items. Hold peridot in your hand and visualise what you have lost, then allow yourself to be guided there.
Stringing peridot on donkey hair and wearing it around your left wrist can ward off evil spirits. Peridot is thought to protect against nightmares as it will always gleam with the sun's light, even at nighttime. In ancient Egypt peridot was considered the Stone of the Sun, whereas in Hawaii the gem is thought to come from the tears of Pele, the goddess of the volcanos.
Dreaming of peridot? Don't! Seeing peridot in your dreams is said to foretell a future misfortune!
Sardonyx superstitions and beliefs Ladies in ancient Roman times would wear a cameo of sardonyx carved with the image of Venus, the goddess of love, in order to attract a lover. It's since been claimed that any woman who owns sardonyx jewellery but neglects to wear it will die a lonely old spinster, whereas the woman who chooses to wear her sardonyx regularly will enjoy conjugal bliss! Wearing sardonyx leads to clarity of thought, and is therefore the perfect stone for those who have to give a speech or debate in public. It can also keep evil spirits at bay and ward off dark spells cast against the wearer.
During the terrible times of the great plague in Europe, from 1347-1750, mothers would place a sardonyx stone under the beds of their suffering children to protect them from the disease. If the child survived they were thought to have absorbed the power of the stone and become invincible.
Peridot in history
Peridot is the national stone of Egypt. Egyptians have mined the stone for thousands of years, and it was kept exclusively for the use of Pharaohs. It was mined on a tiny island in the Red Sea – reportedly overrun with snakes – and slaves were required to mine both day and night. The tiny island was called Topazios, and so peridot was referred to as Topaz. With the ending of the Egyptian Pharaonic Empire, the island's location was lost to time until it was rediscovered in 1905. Now called Zabargad, it is thought that all the peridot there is all but depleted.
In medieval times, and for centuries before, peridot was believed to be a pale "unripe" emerald.
In Cologne Cathedral in Germany there is the Shrine of the Three Maji, adorned with what was thought to be huge emeralds. The emeralds have since been discovered to be peridots!
Sardonyx in history Sardonyx has been worn for decoration and as a talisman for thousands of years. Soldiers from the ancient civilisations of Rome and Greece would go into battle wearing decorations of sardonyx carved with the images of gods and legendary heroes to lend them strength and bravery.
Queen Elizabeth I of England gave a sardonyx ring carved with her image as a token of affection to her friend, the Earl of Essex. She promised that she would al