(Yes, there is a new additional birthstone for the month of August!)
Pretty in Peridot
You don't need a special reason to wear the freshest summer color in the gemstone palette, but if you were born in August or if you are celebrating your 16th wedding anniversary, peridot carries special significance.
Peridot is the perfect gemstone for August. It is light and airy - call it "summery." Peridot adds the fresh look of summer to any outfit, particularly the bright pastels so popular on the fashion runways this season. Compared to more saturated tones like deep emerald or crimson ruby, there is an informality about peridot that adds to the lightness of the season. It is also more affordable than those gems. That said, a large, highly-saturated peridot
Lush light green - a shade called "Green Flash" - was one of the top ten colors for Spring 2016 chosen by Pantone, the color trends forecaster and tracker. It calls on its wearer to "escape the mundane" says Pantone, and "is representative of nature's persistent influence, even in urban environments, a trend continuing to inspire designers." One such designer, Venezuela's Angel Sanchez, says he is "obsessed with lime green," referring to it as an "intense color for a sunny and cheerful spring. The must-have item for Spring 2016 was a tea-length lime green textured organza strapless dress with dramatic folded pleats," he says. "It is couture, but at the same time very young." This is a perfect description for a beautiful, faceted peridot.
Olive Green: Positive Protection
So just what is this beauty of a gem, and where does it come from? Gemologically speaking, peridot is the gem variety of the mineral olivine. The intensity and tint of the unique green color depends on how much iron is
The Traditional Birthstone for August:
Historically, peridot was found in Egypt (specifically, St. John's Island - the Isle of Zabargad), and even Hawaii - where it was considered the goddess Pele's tears. (These sites are "uplifted mantle" - the building of an Island in the Red Sea, and volcanic deposits, as in the Hawaiian Islands and the green "sand" beaches.) Today, however, peridot is found mainly in other sites.
The largest and most beautiful samples of peridot come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Peridot is also found in Myanmar, China, the U.S., Africa, Australia, and recently in Vietnam. Typical size range is from one to five carats. Large crystals of forsterite, the variety most often used to cut peridot, are not as common.
Stones from Myanmar are a vivid light to moderate green, with fine inclusions and a silky sheen. Peridot from Arizona, typically smaller than those from Myanmar, are also often a bit more yellowish or golden-brownish in hue. The United States, China, Australia, and recently Vietnam are producing the bulk of the material used in jewelry.
According to Heinz-Ulrich Mayer of August Mayer in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the finest peridot comes from both Myanmar and Pakistan. "Some say Burma has better color," he says, "but I disagree. You can get the same fine color in Pakistan peridot. Myanmar stones generally have a 'silky' look to them as they have very fine silk-like inclusions. The Pakistan stones are more crystal."
Out of this World!
When talking about locality and formation, we would be remiss if we didn't tell you about peridot also coming from outer space! That's right, peridot is the ONLY wearable transparent gemstone that can come from somewhere beyond Earth. They are found in pallasitic meteorites (iron with olivine, called pallasites) that have landed on Earth, cut open to reveal gem peridot. To emphasize where they are from, faceted pallasitic peridot are called "Palladot." Talk about unique! These small (usually less than one carat), typically brownish yellow-green gems are definitely for those who want something no one else has - and they are priced accordingly.
Large peridots have an amazingly vibrant (vivid and bright) color, and they have the power to make a dramatic statement in jewelry - as center stones in pendants or large drop earrings. Smaller sizes are no less beautiful when set in multiples, and are frequently used as accent stones. Peridot is usually cut in the traditional faceted shapes, classic table cuts, as well as cabochons, and beads. If not
properly cut, peridot can quickly look a tad washed out. However, in an effort to alleviate looking too pale, newer more modern cuts, cushions with checkerboard tops for example, can really boost peridots like-ability. Briolettes are the almost forgotten classic shape, faceted teardrops, which really intensifies the color and brilliance of a peridot. They are perfect for earrings, or a statement necklace, or even a fabulous gem-dangled bracelet.
Peridot is a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so it is not the most scratch-resistant gem - compared to sapphire and ruby, at 9, or spinel at 8. Still, peridot is not at the bottom of the hardness list, and it is reasonably tough, although probably should not be worn every day; it can take a few soft knocks, and is therefore perfectly suitable as a center stone in a ring. However, they really shine through in statement earrings, especially combined with other gemstones. To keep peridot clean, peridot shouldn't be put in a steamer or ultrasonic bath, as any good jeweler would know, nor should you wipe a dry peridot, which could eventually dull its luster. Soap and water will do very nicely, and make certain the gem is washed clean of dust before wiping. Treat your peridot with care, and it will look beautiful for years to come.
Fun Fact:The largest cut peridot olivine is a 311.8-carat specimen in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (see image)
Ring with center peridot weighing 16.57 cts., with 22 diamonds of 0.07 ctw, and 66 tsavorites of 1.84 ctw. By Paula Crevoshay from the "Illuminations - Earth to Jewel" exhibit at the Mines Paris Tech mineral museum.
Peridot was originally called topazion after the island of Topazios (now Zabargad), an important source of the gem since ancient times. Eventually, the gem came to be named topaz. During the eighteenth century, for reasons that are not clear, the name topaz was re-assigned to the stone we call topaz today, and the name peridot was adopted for the stone represented here. Peridot is the gem variety of the mineral forsterite and is most prized when it is a medium-dark green without yellow or brown undertones. In early times, peridot was associated with the sun and was believed to possess medicinal powers. Peridot was used during the Crusades to adorn religious objects. It became popular in jewelry during the late 1800's. Five continents are represented in this array of peridot gems: the peridot in the necklace is from Arizona; the other peridots are from Egypt, Burma, Pakistan, Antarctica, and Norway.
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Gems & Minerals Sciences Department.
New York, NY - The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), and Jewelers of America (JA), have announced that spinel will join the official list of birthstones as an additional gemstone for the month of August. The new birthstone will launch to consumers in July, through a public relations and marketing campaign led by JA, which established the modern birthstone list in 1912.
"At certain moments in history, when there is a strong call from gem enthusiasts to expand the list of official birthstones, Jewelers of America believes in recognizing the importance of historically significant gemstones and giving gemstone lovers a choice that suits their preferences," says JA President & CEO David J. Bonaparte. "Spinel is a welcome addition to August's peridot birthstone, sure to be embraced by both jewelers and the jewelry consuming public."
"Ancient gemstone merchants revered spinel, and it was widely sought after by royalty. It was then known as 'Balas Ruby'," says AGTA CEO Douglas Hucker. "It wasn't until the late 18th century that we developed the technology acumen necessary to distinguish spinel as a separate mineral from ruby. We are very excited to announce it as the newest member of the official birthstone list."
Our SECOND Birthstone Report!
Spotlight on Spinel
Spinel, a gem that has historically been mistaken for other colored gemstones, most notably ruby, is making history in its own right in 2016, joining the official list of birthstones as an additional gem choice for the month of August.
Jewelers of America, which established the modern birthstone list in 1912, is leading the public relations and marketing campaign, along with AGTA (see above) to celebrate August birthdays with spinel. This marks the third update to the list, with alexandrite (June), citrine (November), tourmaline (October) and zircon (December) added in 1952, and tanzanite as an additional December gem listed in 2002.
This is exciting news for a gem that has become more than a collector's favorite, with spinel's popularity surging among bespoke jewelry designers and luxury brands inspired by its great brilliance, and range of spectacular colors.
"Spinel comes in almost all colors of the rainbow and a wide range of hues.
Los Angeles designer Niveet Nagpal for Omi Privé believes spinel is underappreciated and deserving of the spotlight, having stayed in the shadows of ruby and sapphire historically. "Hopefully with spinel becoming an official birthstone it will get the much-needed exposure it deserves."
Not correctly identified until the late 1700s, spinel was often mistaken for corundum. Hailed the great imposter, almost all historical large red gems in crown jewels and religious regalia are not ruby but actually spinel, referred to as either balas ruby or spinel ruby. Among the most famous is the Black Prince's Ruby, a stunning, 170-carat red spinel, a semi-polished octahedron (octahedron being the classic rough crystalline shape for spinel) that adorns the Imperial State Crown of England, mounted just above the 317.4-carat Cullinan II diamond. Another example is the Timur Ruby, a 352-carat spinel currently in the private collection of jewels owned by Queen Elizabeth II, which has the names of all the Mogul emperors who previously owned it engraved on its face.
The name spinel may have been derived from the Greek word "spitha" meaning spark or perhaps "spinthir" meaning scintillate. These are only two of numerous plausible name origins, but since faceted spinels are strongly dispersive and typically more scintillating than ruby, one could easily see how its name might have Greek origins. Considering the healing powers of spinel, spark and/or scintillate is exactly what this high-energy gem is believed to do in rejuvenating and revitalizing the mind, body and soul. Associated with the root chakra, spinel is grounding and energizing, establishing the deepest connections with your body, your environment, and the earth. "I am so excited that spinel is getting so much love these days," praises Seattle designer Shamila Jiwa. "With its range of colors and being a talisman of protection, who wouldn't want a striking piece of spinel jewelry to call their own?" A fashion friendly gem with good karma --that's a win-win!
Color - for Men as well as Women!
Spinel is a transparent to opaque gem, with colors as vivid as ruby-like reds, some darker "brick" red, and some almost orange. Spinel comes in blue, with the finest stones comparable to that of sapphires, and considered extremely rare. Most blue spinels are deep in color tending towards gray, and some with a violet tinge. Spinel also occurs in shades of yellow, some incredible pinks, lavenders, purples, and blue-greens. Spinel gives you the opportunity to get the guys interested in gem-set jewelry too. Black spinel seems to be quite popular in jewelry for both men and women.
Real or Fake?
It wasn't long ago that if you were to say the name "spinel", people would have assumed "fake." This is because it is very easy to create spinel in a laboratory, and that many birthstone rings, school class rings, and mothers' pins all use some synthetic spinel. Natural spinels were not as plentiful, and so it was assumed that if you were talking spinel, you were talking synthetic. But no longer!
Most NATURAL spinel now is very affordable, and tends to have fewer inclusions when compared to ruby or sapphire of similar size, quality and color. But when spinels do have inclusions, look carefully. Sometimes, these inclusions form a pattern, one that resembles a human's fingerprints; a swirling design made up of tiny octahedral crystals. Very cool!
Because of the nature of the rough, the most common cut for spinel is round and cushion, but it is also crafted in other classic shapes like emerald cuts and trilliants.
A durable gem for jewelry, spinel ranks an 8 on Mohs scale of hardness. This is terrific for center stone rings. Spinel is very durable (which is another reason they used the synthetic spinel - same hardness - in high school and college class rings!).
Keeping it clean is simple. Wipe clean with a gem cloth, or just brush with soapy water or commercial jewelry solution, using a soft bristle toothbrush.
Where do They Come From?
The two best-known historical sources for spinel are Burma and Sri Lanka, but the gem is also found in Vietnam, Madagascar, Tanzania (Mahenge and Tunduru), Tajikistan and Mozambique (new). In fact, one of the main the reasons for spinel becoming a birthstone, is its availability. And the surge in availability is due in part to the new production from Vietnam and Tanzania. These new deposits are providing the market with dreamy colors that speak to the latest Pantone palette in hues from Rose Quartz and Lilac Gray to Bodacious purple and Riverside blue.
You Wear Your
The custom of wearing gemstones as good luck charms (aka amulets, & talismans) as well as for fashion statements reaches far back in history. Ancient records reveal that because of gemstones' magical powers, combined with their bewitching beauty, inspired their use as adornments.
Wearing gems as a symbol of one's birth month ("birthstones") first became popular in Poland in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Nowadays, everyone knows their birthstone and probably has one or two pieces of jewelry featuring their lucky gem.
Did You Know?
Your birth month is special, but there are many other reasons to wear colored gems. It will come as no surprise that there are gems that represent your astrological sign, but did you know that there are gemstones associated with given names, the time of day, and the day of the week? Do you know which day of the week greeted your birth?
Birth Month vs. Gem Month
Centuries ago, people believed that the powers of a gemstone were heightened during its month. Your birthstone is your lucky charm for your birth month, when your birthstone is most powerful. But the other eleven months have their own magical gems. Perhaps wearing a gem during its month will conjure up even more luck. If so, it may be time to get a full set of twelve colored gemstones and wear a different gem each month (garnet in January, amethyst in February, aquamarine in March, etc.).
When you feel drawn to a particular gemstone, there might be a reason, even if you don't know what that reason is. It could be the material itself or its color, but it might be the month, the particular day of the week, or even the time of day.
For more wonderful and intriguing history about birthstones, read The Curious Lore of Precious Stones by George Frederick Kunz, a fascinating compendium of all the powers that have been associated with gemstones throughout history.