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Why does August have two birthstones?

Why does August have two birthstones?

August is the eighth month of the year and is associated with the zodiac sign Leo. Unlike other months which have just one birthstone, August has two gemstones associated with it – peridot and spinel. This unique association of two stones with the month has an interesting historical background. In this article, we will explore why August came to have these two beautiful birthstones and the significance behind them.

The history and meaning behind August’s birthstones

For centuries, various cultures have associated certain gemstones with calendar months as symbols of luck, health, and metaphysical energies. This tradition of month stones, also known as birthstones, originated from biblical descriptions and developed according to availability and popularity of gem varieties across different regions over time.

The modern birthstone list we use today was standardized in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers. Before this, various birthstone lists prevailed in different cultures, with associated myths and powers. For example, ancient Romans linked certain stones to their mythological gods that ruled over each month.

August has zodiac associations with the lions – fierce, strong, loyal, and courageous. The peridot was recognized as the primary August birthstone in the ancient list, believed to imbue the Leo traits of confidence and valor. The vivid green peridot was also regarded as a symbol of the sun in ancient Egypt and was Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone.

The spinel joined as August’s alternate birthstone in the updated official list of 1912. However, history indicates it was worn by ancient kings and called the “Balas Ruby” much earlier. Spinel’s links with August arise from its red color resembling a burning fire, coinciding with the summer heat.

So the peridot has traditional connections with August, while the spinel gained modern associations through its fiery color resembling August’s climate. Together, they amplify the Leo traits of warmth, vitality, and passion for this summer month.

What is so special about peridot?

Peridot is the luminous olive-green gemstone variety of the mineral olivine. It has been prized since ancient times for its unique vivid green color and mystical powers. Here are some key facts that make peridot so special:

– Unique green color: Peridot has a distinctive green color unlike any other gem. Good quality peridot has a vivid light tone ranging from lime to olive green. This bright green is caused by the presence of iron in its chemical composition.

– Formed deep inside the earth: Peridots are formed deep inside the mantle layer of the Earth and brought to the surface by volcanoes. They are mostly found in igneous rocks and meteorites. This volcanic origin makes peridot a rare and unique gem.

– Ancient history: Peridots were mined as early as 1500 BC in Egypt. They were highly valued and worn by Egyptian kings and pharaohs. Ancient Romans too esteemed peridot and dedicated it to planet Saturn.

– August birthstone: As August’s primary birthstone, peridot symbolizes strength, power, and healing. It represents the peak of summertime and harvest.

– Cleopatra’s favorite: The Egyptian queen Cleopatra was renowned for her love of peridot jewelry. She amassed an extensive collection of peridot gems and adorned her royal wardrobe with the stone.

– Mythical powers: In folklore, peridot is believed to harbor magical powers that ward off night terrors, bring prosperity, and strengthen self-esteem. People also wear it for inner peace and luck.

– Versatile jewelry stone: Transparent peridots with good color and clarity are faceted into beautiful gemstones. Their hardness makes peridot suitable for daily-wear rings, pendants, bracelets, and earrings.

– Major sources: Important peridot deposits are found in the USA, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Africa. Finest quality peridots are mined in Arizona, USA.

So in summary, the vivid hue, unique formation, rich history, August birth month associations, and purported powers make peridot a special and meaningful gem.

What are the key facts about spinel?

Spinel is an enchanting gemstone best known for its fiery reds, but occurs in many other spectacular colors too. Some fascinating facts about spinel:

– Hard and durable: With a hardness of 8, spinel is the second hardest stone after diamond. This makes it extremely durable for jewelry use.

– Natural variety: Spinels form naturally in the earth’s crust in a range of geological conditions. They occur in octahedral crystal shapes and random formations.

– Vibrant colors: Spinels exhibit an array of bright, saturated hues – red, pink, violet, blue, green, black and more. The rich color palette is due to trace elements within the stone.

– Affordable: Fine quality spinels are available at a fraction of the cost of equally colored rubies and sapphires. Red spinels offer a great ruby alternative.

– Misidentification: Historically, red spinels were confused with ruby and called “balas ruby”. Blue/gray spinels were mixed up with sapphire.

– August birthstone: Though originally not August’s birthstone, spinel joined the list recently in 1912 for its fiery red color. It amplifies the month’s associations with passion and energy.

– Premium localities: Significant spinel deposits are found in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. These Asian sources produce top-grade gemstones.

– Jewelry use: Transparent spinels with rich color and clarity are expertly cut for rings, pendants, earrings and more. Durability makes it suitable for daily wear.

In summary, the brilliant colors, affordability, hardness, and associations with vitality make spinel an excellent addition as August’s secondary birthstone.

Why are there two different birthstones for August?

August was originally only associated with peridot as its sole birthstone. But in 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers adopted spinel as an additional August birthstone. Here are some key reasons behind this special dual designation:

– Change in birthstone list: The official birthstone chart was revised in 1912 to include more affordable and available gem choices for all months. Spinel was newly added as August’s second stone at this time.

– Similarities to peridot: Spinel also forms in igneous rocks like peridot, both having a volcanic origin. The red spins evoke the warmth of August just like peridot’s green represents the harvest season.

– Distinctive from peridot: At the same time, spinel offered an alternative option with its own identity – different colors, higher hardness, and unique crystal shapes.

– Affordability compared to peridot: Fine peridots over 2 carats are rare and expensive. But spinels can be found relatively easily in large sizes and affordable prices.

– Recognition of spinel: Associating spinel with August raised awareness about this relatively unknown gem at the time which was often confused with ruby.

– Increased choice: Having an additional birthstone provided more options, variety, and flexibility to August-born people to find a suitable birthstone.

So while peridot has traditional significance for August, designating spinel as a second birthstone offered August babies an affordable, distinct and meaningful alternative gemstone.

How are the properties and colors of peridot and spinel different?

Though both are colored gemstones connected to August, peridot and spinel have distinct differences between them in terms of their properties and color range.

Property Peridot Spinel
Hardness 6.5 to 7 on Mohs scale 8 on Mohs scale
Color range Green hues – lime, olive, forest green Red, pink, violet, blue, green, black, brown, colorless
Clarity Transparent to translucent Transparent
Cut Faceted – round, cushion, oval Faceted – round, cushion, octagon
Geologic formation Igneous rocks, meteorites Metamorphic rocks, limestone
Key sources Arizona (USA), China, Myanmar, Pakistan Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania

In summary,

– Peridot has medium hardness and spinel has extreme hardness close to diamond.

– Peridot displays light green shades caused by iron, while spinel occurs in multifarious bright colors.

– Peridot forms in molten igneous rocks and spinel in metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.

– Main peridot sources are in the USA and Asia, whereas premium spinels come from Asian countries.

So while both are August birthstones, peridot and spinel have distinct individual properties in terms of color, hardness, sources, and formations.

How should you care for peridot and spinel jewelry?

Though durable August birthstones, peridot and spinel still require some basic care to keep your jewelry glittering and damage-free:

1. Protect from sharp blows: Avoid dropping your peridot or spinel jewelry on hard surfaces. The impact can cause chipping or fractures.

2. Store carefully: Keep your August birthstone jewelry in soft cloth pouches separate from other gems. This prevents scratches.

3. Clean with mild soap: Use a gentle soap solution and soft brush to clean dirt from ornament settings and metal. Avoid harsh chemicals.

4. Avoid prolonged sun exposure: Intense heat and light can cause fading and discoloration in peridots and spinels over time. Take off jewelry before swimming.

5. Get timely repairs: Fix loose settings immediately to prevent loss of gems. Visit a trusted jeweler for professional repairs.

6. Remove during strenuous activity: Your energetic fitness routine or gardening can damage softer peridot jewelry, so best to take it off temporarily.

With some care and common sense, your August birthstone jewelry will shine its vibrant best for many years as memorable keepsakes. Consult your jeweler if you need any specific advice on caring for your peridot or spinel gems.


August is one of the few months to have not one but two beautiful birthstones – the green peridot and the multi-hued spinel. Peridot has traditional associations with the August zodiac Leo. Spinel became an alternate in the 20th century for its red color symbolizing summer’s heat and to provide an affordable choice.

Beyond their shared August connections, the two stones have unique identities with distinctive properties. Peridots emanate a spring-like freshness while spinels exude fiery warmth, together representing the contrasting aspects of August.

So next time you’re shopping for August birthstone gifts or picking jewelry for yourself, remember you have two vibrant options! Choose peridot for its verdant tranquility or spinel for its passionate sparkle. Both will make fantastic and meaningful August birthstones.