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August birthstones - Peridot

Birthstones are gems traditionally associated either with calendar months or zodiac signs, and vary across the world.  The custom of wearing birthstone jewellery originated in 18th-century Poland.

And so here we are in August.  This month the birthstone is peridot, probably a gem you may not have heard of.  It’s also the stone given to celebrate 16 years of marriage.  And it’s the national gemstone of Egypt.

Peridot is the gem-quality form of the mineral olivine.  Formerly, also sometimes called chrysolite.

It’s one of the very few gemstones that occur in only one colour, being olive-green or bottle-green, although the intensity of the colour can vary, so it may appear golden on occasion.

The principal (earthly) sources are St. John’s Island (also known as Zabargad Island) in the Red Sea and Arizona in the USA.  Whilst it’s found in the earth’s crust, it also exists in some meteorites.  So next time you see one of them land in your garden, get the rock hammer out!  You might be rewarded with a beautiful peridot.

The Crusaders brought peridot back to Europe from St. John’s Island where it had been mined for 3,500 years.  In ancient times it was often used to make carved talismans.  The Egyptian pharaohs were particularly taken with peridot, and, in fact, it is now believed that the emeralds that Cleopatra was famous for wearing were actually peridot, and not emeralds.

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