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This month’s birthday? August’s birthstones are green, crystalline peridot or multicolored, striped sardonyx.

Peridot

Peridot is a translucent gem-quality form of olivine, a mineral made up of magnesium-iron silicates. Olivine’s hue varies from olive to lime green, with a brownish tint at times. Iron, which is present in trace levels in the crystal, gives it its green hue, while a brownish tint implies a larger iron presence.

Some of the best peridot stones are referred to as “evening emeralds” because they seem greener under artificial light.

Peridot has been discovered and mined since ancient times in the Red Sea island of Zabargad, which means olivine in Arabic. It’s a tiny, barren island. Except for the midst of winter, nothing grows, there is no freshwater, and it is scorchingly hot all year. Gem crystals ranging in size from millimeters to several centimeters line cracks in the granite in various places on the island. Because of small green peridot crystals, beaches surrounding the deposits have a greenish color.

Peridot crystals are also found in the Mogok area of Myanmar (Burma), Norway, Brazil, China, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Mexico. Small stones may be discovered at the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona in the United States. Peridot is found in several meteorites.

The Origins of Peridot

Peridot is one of the earliest gemstones known to man. In the Hebrew Bible, the “topaz” on Aaron’s breastplate, the high priest of the Hebrews, seemed to be peridot.

The Greeks thought that wearing it bestowed regal majesty on the wearer. To ward off bad spirits, individuals wore peridot that had been pierced, strung on an ass’s hair, and fastened to the left arm during the Middle Ages. The Crusaders mistook peridots for emeralds and transported them back to Europe, where they were used as church decorations.

Late in the Ottoman empire, peridots were treasured stone (1300-1918). Sultans of Turkey amassed what is said to be the world’s biggest collection. The gold throne at Istanbul’s Topkapi museum is adorned with 955 peridot cabochons (gems or beads cut in convex shape and highly polished) measuring up to 1 inch across, and peridots are also used as turban ornaments and on jewelry boxes. The biggest stone might be a 310-carat rock owned by the Smithsonian. A 192-carat beautiful pure olive-green stone is among the Russian crown jewels housed in the Kremlin.

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