Nowadays, peridot is the August birthstone, the 16th anniversary gem, and the zodiac stone for Leo.
Peridot, also called Precious Olivine, is found only in green color, ranging from a light yellowish green to a deeper green and has been valued for centuries.
Peridot history and myths
This gemstone was first discovered over 2000 years ago.
In the 19th century, the mysterious island where the Peridot originated, Zabargad, was finally discovered off the coast of Egypt. Before that, Peridot was so rare that it became legendary.
Large peridots, more than 200 carats in size, adorn the shrine of the three magi at the Cologne Cathedral. Peridot was also used often to decorate churches of the Middle Ages and the gem stones were probably carried back to Europe by the Crusaders.
Peridot is considered to have the power to drive away evil spirits and becomes even more intense when the stones are set in gold.
In medieval times people believed peridot could protect the bearer from demons, so priests used this gem to heal people of evil influences. Pirates on the other hand believed that peridots would glow in the presence of a buried treasure, so they always kept at least one stone with them.
In India and China, people believed it could stimulate tissue regeneration, so some healers regularly used these gems in their activity.
Where is Peridot Found?
Very large crystals are found in the Mogok district of Burma while the United States seldom produces Peridots larger than two carats in size. While most Peridot is found in small crystals of rocks created by volcanoes, Hawaiian legends believed that drops of Peridot were the tears of the goddess Pele.
Peridot can also be found in meteors that have fallen to earth and is considered by some as the Extraterrestrial gem stone. A few samples of extraterrestrial peridot have even been faceted into gems.
Zabargad, Egypt, in the Red Sea, still produces fine Peridot gems. In ancient Egypt Peridot was mined at night since its color didn’t change from light to dark and could be seen easier at night than in daylight.
Most Peridot today is mined by Native Americans in Arizona on the San Carlos Reservation. Fine large peridot are found in Myanmar and peridot is also mined in China and Sri Lanka. A new deposit of Peridot was discovered in Pakistan in 1994, and these stones are among the finest ever seen. The new mine is located 15,000 feet above sea level in the Himalaya Mountains. One stone found was more than 300 carats!
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Its name comes from the Latin word “spinella”, which means spine in reference to its pointed crystals
Its hardness is 8, and it is transparent to opaque with a vitreous to dull luster. It may be colorless, but is usually various shades of pink, rose, red, blue, green, yellow, brown, black or violet. There is a unique natural white spinel, now lost, that surfaced briefly in what is now Sri Lanka.
Some spinels are among the most famous gemstones; among them are the Black Prince’s Ruby and the “Timur ruby” in the British Crown Jewels, and the “Côte de Bretagne”, formerly from the French Crown jewels. The Samarian Spinel is the largest known spinel in the world, weighing 500 carats (100 g).
The transparent red spinels were called spinel-rubies or balas rubies. In the past, before the arrival of modern science, spinels and rubies were equally known as rubies. After the 18th century the word ruby was only used for the red gem variety of the mineral corundum and the word spinel came to be used. “Balas” is derived from Balascia, the ancient name for Badakhshan, a region in central Asia situated in the upper valley of the Panj River, one of the principal tributaries of the Oxus River. Mines in the Gorno Badakhshan region of Tajikistan constituted for centuries the main source for red and pink spinels.
Spinel is found as a metamorphic mineral, and also as a primary mineral in rare mafic igneous rocks;
Spinel has long been found in the gemstone-bearing gravel of Sri Lanka and in limestones of the Badakshan Province in modern-day Afghanistan and Tajikistan; and of Mogok in Myanmar. Over the last decades gem quality spinels are found in the marbles of Lục Yên District (Vietnam), Mahenge and Matombo (Tanzania), Tsavo (Kenya) and in the gravels of Tunduru (Tanzania) and Ilakaka (Madagascar).
Since 2000 in several locations around the world have been discovered spinels with unusual vivid pink or blue color. Such “glowing” spinels are known from Mogok (Myanmar), Mahenge plateau (Tanzania), Lục Yên District (Vietnam) and some more localities. In 2018 bright blue spinels have been reported also in the southern part of Baffin Island (Canada). The pure blue coloration of spinel is caused by small additions of cobalt.
Synthetic spinel, accidentally produced in the middle of the 18th century, has been described more recently in scientific publications in 2000 and 2004. By 2015, transparent spinel was being made in sheets and other shapes through sintering. Synthetic spinel, which looks like glass but has notably higher strength against pressure, can also have applications in military and commercial use.
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Onyx primarily refers to the parallel banded variety of the silicate mineral chalcedony. Agate and onyx are both varieties of layered chalcedony that differ only in the form of the bands: agate has curved bands and onyx has parallel bands. The colors of its bands range from white to almost every color. Commonly, specimens of onyx contain bands of black and/or white.
Sardonyx is a variant of Onyx in which the colored bands are sard (shades of red) rather than black.
Onyx was used in Egypt as early as the Second Dynasty to make bowls and other pottery items. Use of sardonyx appears in the art of Minoan Crete, notably from the archaeological recoveries at Knossos.
Sardonyx is mentioned in the Bible many times as well.
The ancient Romans entered battle carrying amulets of sardonyx engraved with Mars, the god of war. This was believed to bestow courage in battle. In Renaissance Europe, wearing sardonyx was believed to bestow eloquence. A traditional Persian belief is that it helped with epilepsy. Sardonyx was traditionally used by English midwives to ease childbirth by laying it between the breasts of the mother.
Sardonyx is a gemstone found in various regions of the world including Yemen, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Latin America, the UK, and various states in the US.