August’s birthstones, peridot and spinel—wear them your way
August has three birthstones to choose from: Sardonyx was first, followed by two that I’ve written about before: peridot (1912) and then spinel (2016). With these stones comes a range of colors—from bright lime green to red, pink, grey, black, and even purple! Here’s a snapshot of the luscious gems to celebrate your August birthday.
Never heard of it? It’s actually an opaque stone that runs from yellow-red to reddish brown. It forms in layered bands of onyx and sard (a type of chalcedony). You can find it in older cameos or carved stone pieces.
Peridot: From earth and space
This is probably the best-known August birthstone, with a beautiful lime-green glow.
- Peridot gemstones come from both earth and space. They’re formed deep in the earth’s center of molten rock and explode to the surface by volcanic activity. There’s also a rare type of peridot that comes from meteorites (made of nickel-iron and olivine)!
- They’ve been confused through the ages with emeralds. Romans called them “evening emeralds” because the gems flashed green even at night. Some believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection was really a group of peridots.
Spinel: August’s newest birthstone
With ruby prices sky-high, deep-red spinels, which can look just like them, have become an affordable—and beautiful—alternative.
- Like peridots/emeralds, spinels were mis-identified throughout history as rubies—there was even one in the British crown jewels.
- The stone’s red color comes from chromium (the same mineral that gives rubies their red color).
- The most desirable color, according to the American Gem Society, is vivid red (sometimes referred to as “flame spinel”) followed by cobalt blue, bright pink, and bright orange. It can also be found in black, violet blue, greenish blue, yellow, and brown.
- Peridots are believed to protect wearers from evil spirits and night terrors. They’re known as the “stone of compassion” and can bring good health, restful sleep, and good fortune.
- Spinels are associated with the “root” chakra, impacting teeth, skin, and spine. Its fiery color helps encourage passion, devotion, and stamina. It’s also said to reduce forgetfulness (if you remember to wear it.)
Caring for your August birthstones
- To clean peridots, which are softer than other stones, don’t use steam or an ultrasonic cleaner. They can also be damaged by some acids and long-term exposure to “acidic perspiration” according to the GIA. Use a soft brush and mild dish soap in warm water.
- To clean spinels, which are harder than peridots, you can use ultrasonic and steam cleaners, but only if there aren’t fractures that have been filled. Soapy water is the safest. High heat may cause some fading.
- Buying peridot jewelry: Look for stones that have a bright lime green color without yellow or brown tinges. There shouldn’t be any visible inclusions. The great news is that good quality peridots are relatively affordable. With a Mohs hardness rating of 6.5-7, they’re softer than some other gems, so rings might not be the best use of this stone.
- Buying spinel jewelry: Look for clear stones with no inclusions. They’re available in a range of cuts and are hard enough to be used an any type of jewelry setting. Vivid red is generally the most desirable, while paler colors, like lavender, are more affordable.