Spinel & Peridot (5-21ct)

Celebrating August’s Birthstones

August’s birthstones, spinel and peridot, have both been famously misidentified throughout history. Many well-known and coveted rubies, like the Black Prince’s Ruby and the Timur Ruby, are now known to be spinel. It is likely that, without spinel, rubies would not have reached the popularity or prestige that they enjoy today. In the same way, many of the “emeralds” in Cleopatra’s collection, as well as “emeralds” decorating the shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, are, in fact, peridot

14ct & 7ct Peridot Gems with Peridot Rough 

Peridot symbolizes strength, and was worn by the Egyptians to ward off evil. In ancient times, peridot was known as chrysolite, the “gem of the sun”, and in more recent years has been referred to as the “evening emerald” because it’s electric green color remains strong in dim lighting

Throughout history, the island of Topázios, now Zabargad, has been a primary source of peridot. The name topaz was originally applied to all yellow to greenish-yellow gems. Topaz and peridot are both members of the orthorhombic crystal system, adding to the early confusion. The name peridot likely stems from the Arabic word “faridat”, meaning gem

Burmese Peridot Crystal
Photo courtesy of Federico Barlocher

Along with diamond, peridot is one of only two gems that can form in the Earth’s mantle rather than the crust. It is often transported
to the surface within volcanic basalts

Edward in a Peridot Mine in Bernardmyo, Mogok Township, Burma

Peridot is the magnesium-rich gemstone variety of the olivine group, and its color can be influenced by trace amounts of iron. It has been found on all continents, including Antarctica (in volcanic basalts, from Ross Island), and it is also occasionally found in meteorites (pallasite), although rarely gem-quality. The primary sources for gem-quality peridot are Burma, Pakistan, United States and China 

5ct Red Spinel & Pink Spinel Octahedrons from Burma

Spinel forms in octahedrons, and is a member of the cubic crystal system. The Latin word “spina”, meaning thorn, is likely to be the origin of the name spinel, referring to the shape of the crystals. In Burma, transparent and well-formed spinel octahedrons are referred to as Nat Thwe, meaning “angel cut”, because their nearly perfect shape and glassy surface hints that celestial beings must have played a part in their formation  

4-6ct Purple Spinel from Afghanistan
Spinel, Mahenge 10.81

Spinel has been mistaken for corundum throughout history because it is found in similar colors and many of the same localities. Its lore is connected to that of ruby and other red gems, which symbolize passion, strength, nobility, loyalty and spiritual wisdom. In Marco Polo’s 13th century travel log, known as The Travels of Marco Polo, Marvels of the World, he refers to “Balas Rubies”, coming from the region of Badakhshan along the Silk Road, connecting China with the west. Today, we know that these ruby-red gems were actually spinels

Edward with Werner Spaltenstein en route to Mahenge, Tanzania
Ipanko Spinel Mines near Mahenge, Tanzania

Because of spinel’s cubic structure, 4-ray star spinels are much more common than 6-ray stars like those featured above

6ct Color-Change Cobalt Spinel from Vietnam

Color-change spinel is more rare than color-change sapphire, making it a highly sought-after gem amongst collectors and connoisseurs

Watch this short overview of Rough and Cut spinel by Edward at GIA