There’s some news in the gemstone world. At the beginning of July it was announced that Spinel will join Peridot as an officially recognized birthstone for the month of August. This will be good news for many who have been less than wowed by peridot over the years. In fact, I have seen more scowls over the August (and November’s citrine) birthstone than all of the other months combined…sorry peridot, it seems most people like emerald better. Personally, I think peridot has a bad rap. I have seen many beautiful pieces featuring peridot, and some of the rough peridot stones I have come across are absolutely gorgeous...not to mention that it has been the only gemstone found in meteorites!
Peridot is unlike many other gemstones in that it is olivine, which is composed of two minerals: fayalite and forsterite, and therefore is only found in shades of green. Peridot gets its green color from iron found within the minerals, and the more iron there is, the more intensely green the stone will be. Being one of the oldest gemstones used in jewelry with records dating back to 1500 B.C., peridot has often been labeled as ‘the poor man’s emerald’, but has persisted as a quality gemstone for centuries. In its rough olivine form, the best peridot comes from Burma and Pakistan, and has also been discovered in meteorites, on Mars, and on our moon.
Most high quality peridot comes from Burma, Pakistan, and Vietnam, but peridot has been found all over the world. Peridot is different from other gemstones in that it was created deep within the part of the Earth known as the mantle, while others are created much closer to the surface in the crust. Peridot deposits are pushed up towards the surface by volcanic and tectonic activity. With a6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, peridot is not as hard and durable as other gemstones, but is more than durable enough to be used in everyday jewelry, and versatile enough to be cut into almost any shape.
Peridot should be eye-clean and free of inclusions, and is usually found in faceted shapes due to its excellent transparency. Professionals often refer to peridot as having a greasy and vitreous luster.
Peridot has a long history with humans, and has been thought to symbolize rebirth and renewal, and bring wisdom. Rumored as the favorite gemstone of Cleopatra, many thought her collection of peridot was a collection of emeralds. The Romans also appreciated peridot and called it the ‘evening emerald’, as it didn’t darken in low-light and could be appreciated at night by candlelight. Peridot has also been found in many medieval churches throughout Europe, and in the high priest breastplates worn in antiquity.
When caring for your peridot, remember that it is a bit softer than other gemstones, so storing it in a soft cloth is recommended to avoid scratches. Peridot does not handle acid well, so remember to remove any jewelry when handling any cleaning products. Peridot is also slightly brittle and can burst under stress or extreme temperature fluctuations, thus it is best to avoid peridot set into tension-mountings. Other than that, you can clean your peridot in soapy warm water, rinse well, and dry with a soft cloth.
Spinel is a great addition to the birthstone calendar. For those who's birthdays fall in August, you now have a variety of colors to choose from. Though most people think of red when they visualize spinel, this magnesium aluminum oxide mineral comes in just about every color, and has been used in jewelry for centuries. Most often confused with the garnet, ruby, or sapphire spinel has a bright rich color, and though lower on the Mohs scale than sapphire, coming in at 8, spinel is durable enough to be cut into almost any shape imaginable.
Spinel occurs in nature alongside sapphire and ruby, and is found all over the world. The most desirable, and hence most expensive, stones are vivid red, cobalt blue, and bright pink and orange. All other colored spinel is very affordable, and it is often used to accent other higher valued stones. Rare in stones over 5 carats, spinel should be visibly free of inclusions…those over 5 carats are usually cut as cabochons due to their inclusions. Spinel can also exhibit asterism (star-effect).
Being new to the birthstone list, but not to being worn as jewelry, spinel has often been thought by some to be a soothing stone with calming energy. Spinel, and its different colors, have also been linked to renew, healing, vitality, love, intellect, and higher spiritual development. Whatever the power spinel has, it is definitely a welcome addition to the month of August, and gives us a whole new reason to introduce people to its range of colors and fashions.
Cleaning your spinel is easy due to its durability. Simply use soapy warm water and a soft cloth, rinse and dry well.