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August's Birthstone of the Month

Peridot, the volcanic gem, is the best known gem variety of mineral olivine, a specific name for a series of magnesium-iron rich silicate minerals. This bright yellow-green to green gemstone has caught the fancy of humans for thousands of years. Some historians even suspect that at least some of the "emeralds" worn by Cleopatra were actually peridot.

The Romans called peridot "evening emerald," since its green color did not darken at night but was still visible by lamplight. Peridot later was also often used to decorate medieval churches. Large peridots, close to 200 carats in size, decorate the shrine of the three magi at the Cologne Cathedral.

Peridot was mined in ancient Egypt on an island called Zeberget. Mining was done at night because legend said that peridot could not be easily seen during the day. The island was infested with serpents who made peridot mining a very dangerous occupation until one Pharoh finally had them all driven into the sea.

Much of its recent popularity can be explained by its currently being recognized as the birthstone for the month of August, people wear the stone because it is supposed to bring the wearer success, peace, and good luck. The United States was for many years the largest producer of peridot, the value of production in 1999 was estimated to be about $1.5 million, according to the USBM. The United States is getting major Competition from China and Pakistan for the title of the world's largest producer.

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