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All About the August Birthstones

by Alexandra Wolf
Last updated on September 8, 2021

August claims three birthstones: Peridot, Sardonyx, and Spinel. Peridot is formed under extreme conditions and can be found only in places with hardened lava and volcanic activity or in meteorites that traveled from outer space. Spinel was hugely underappreciated until recently, as today’s gem-lovers look for an alternative to the rare ruby, a gem for which red spinel was confused for centuries. Sardonyx is the original August birthstone, with a history that dates back more than 4,000 years. 


Peridot is the most popular August birthstone, and it’s one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color: olive-green — a variety of the mineral olivine. The intensity and tint of the green depend on the percentage of iron in the crystal structure, so the color of individual peridot gems can vary from yellowish-olive to brownish-green. Throughout history, it’s been confused with gems like topaz or emerald, and historians believe that Cleopatra’s emerald collection may have actually been peridots! The word “peridot” comes from the Arabic faridat, meaning gem. The stone was valued in many ancient and medieval cultures and appeared as early as the second century BCE in priests jewelry, and later in the cathedrals of medieval Europe. The jewelry-quality peridot seen today comes from sources like Myanmar (Burma), Tanzania, Vietnam, and Arizona in the United States. But, smaller amounts can be found in some very interesting places: pallasite (made of nickel-iron and olivine) meteorites can contain peridot, and you can find sands shimmering green on Peridot Beach in Hawaii. The oldest recorded source of peridot is on the Egyptian island of Zabargad (the name now given to Topazios), with mining beginning around 300 BCE. Peridot from Zabargad today is still highly desirable. In the United States, massive volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago sent rivers of lava spilling across the desert landscape of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where some Apache families have worked the peridot mines for decades.

August’s Other Birthstones: Spinel and Sardonyx

The name “spinel” comes from the Latin word spina, which means thorn, in reference to the shape of spinel crystals. Spinel is formed in a variety of bright and arresting colors: intense red, vibrant pink, orange, purple, blue. Just like peridot, spinel was also mistaken for other gemstones for centuries. The 170 carat ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ (actually spinel) was owned by many Moorish and Spanish kings before the Renaissance. Edward, Prince of Wales, received the massive stone in 1367 as payment for winning a battle on behalf of Peter of Castile. Today, this historic red spinel is set in Britain’s Imperial State Crown, above the 318 carat Cullinan II diamond. It was as late as the 18th century when spinel was differentiated from ruby because of their chemical differences. Major sources of spinel include Tajikistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Myanmar produces some great varieties, like hot pink and red spinel, and the Luc Yen region in northern Vietnam has produced this August birthstone in deep red, purple, pink, violet, and vivid blue. 

The most ancient of the August birthstones, sardonyx is a combination of two types of chalcedony (cryptocrystalline quartz): sard and onyx. Bands of brownish red to brown to dark orange sard combine with white or black layers of onyx. In ancient times, sardonyx was a popular stone for Roman seals and signet rings, as hot wax would not stick to it. For centuries, the bands of color in this August birthstone have made it a popular carving material for cameos and imagery. Sardonyx has many sources. India is known for producing sardonyx with a clear contrast between the different colored layers. Sardonyx can also be found in Brazil, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Uruguay, and the United States.

Discover the perfect gift for those born in the month of August by learning about the meanings of these three birthstones!

What do the August Birthstones represent? 

These beautiful gems have had meaning and power for thousands of years. Peridot is believed to instill power and influence in the wearer; it has also been used for centuries as a protective totem, shielding the owner from evil spirits. This gemstone increases mental focus and gives you the strength to persevere, particularly during challenging academic pursuits. It’s also used as an antidepressant, worn over the heart chakra to clear out negative emotions and open up to love. Peridot is traditionally given to celebrate a 16th wedding anniversary. Red spinel was thought to be a remedy for all types of blood loss and inflammatory diseases. The red gems were believed to ease anger and promote harmony. Other color varieties of spinel are believed to protect the owner from harm and soothe away sadness. This August birthstone is usually given as a 22nd wedding anniversary gift. Sardonyx is believed to represent the strength of spiritual life — it’s associated with courage, happiness, clear communication, and bringing stability to marriage and partnerships. Roman soldiers wore sardonyx rings with the image of the god of war, Mars, carved on them for protection in battle.

Lab-grown Peridot

Lab-grown peridots are mined gem alternatives, created under controlled and monitored conditions with cutting-edge technology. The process is started with a “seed” given by a natural gem and creates a stone with the same chemical, physical, and optical characteristics as a mined gem. They have the impurities and the same range of cut, clarity, color, and carat weight that you’d find among mined gems. Some of the more famous laboratory gemstones are sapphires and emeralds.

Diamond vs. Peridot

Mined DiamondsLab-Grown DiamondsPeridot
Made from CarbonMade from CarbonMade from Olivine
Mohs Hardness Level = 10Mohs Hardness Level = 10Mohs Hardness Level = 6.5-7
Refractive Index = 2.42Refractive Index = 2.42Refractive Index = 2.63-2.65

Which Should I Buy?

Trying to decide between gems or jewelry for yourself or a loved one? Here are the pros and cons of diamond and peridot!

The Pros of Lab-Grown Diamonds:

  • Incredibly high demand for diamonds
  • The hardest mineral, not prone to breaking or scratches
  • Ethically and sustainably sourced, so you’ll have a clear conscience!
  • Up to 40% less expensive than mined diamonds

The Cons of Lab-Grown Diamonds:

The Pros of Peridot:

  • Bright and unique, breaking from tradition — looks great with other vivid colors, or white! 
  • The August Birthstone, so it could be more significant and sentimental to those who were born in August
  • Most gems are lab-grown these days, which makes them ethically sourced!
  • Less expensive than diamonds, depending on the four C’s

The Cons of Peridot:

  • Not as valuable or sought after as diamonds
  • Softer than diamonds, therefore it’s easier to scratch or break them