Happy birthday to all of you fabulous August babies. Your birthstone is the appropriately summery peridot, a light green gemstone evocative of dappled summer foliage and citrusy limes.
Peridot is the gemstone variety of the mineral olivine. It gets its colour from iron, and the more iron is present, the deeper the green. It has an average hardness of 6.5 – 7 on the Mohs scale, making it sturdy enough for the wear and tear of jewellery.
Peridot develops crystals deep within the earth’s crust and is brought to the surface during volcanic activity. In Hawaii, peridot is known as Pele’s tears, named after the goddess of fire and volcanoes. It can also be found in meteorites, though these are extremely rare and not likely to be found in jewellery.
The first known use of peridot dates back to ancient Egypt, from gems mined on a volcanic island in the Red Sea. This was the only ancient source of peridot, and has now been exhausted.
These days, most peridot is mined in Arizona, Kashmir and China. It can also be found in Hawaii, as well as Myanmar, Australia, Norway, South Africa, and Brazil.
Peridot is used as a soothing stone and is reputed to protect against negative emotions.
I attended the Ottawa Gem Show this past Saturday, and had an amazing time. I go every year (except last year, when I was busy getting married!), and I always have a blast. I will freely admit to being a bit of a rock geek. I love seeing all the mineral specimens and gorgeous crystal samples on display and for sale. There are activities for the kids, as well as demonstrations such as cabbing faceting.
As always, it was a packed house. I met up with my friend Carolyn from Maiden Star, and we navigated the show together. We oohed and ahhed over displays and hunted through bins for perfect mineral samples and strands of gems.
There was a lot to see, and of course lots of shopping to do! I came away with a good haul, and it took an enormous amount of willpower to not take home more.
I also had fun trying my hand at picking out a geode. The Grenville Minerals booth had bins of rocks that were unopened geodes. I selected one, and he cracked it open. Here’s what I got:
Bancroft, Ontario is a small Canadian town located in the heart of central Ontario, about 240 km (around a 3 hour drive) west of Ottawa. It is picturesque, and not far from Algonquin Provincial Park. It’s considered the mineral mapital of Canada.
Bancroft sits on the Canadian Shield, a geographic area including central and eastern Canada. It consists of some of the planet’s oldest rock, estimated at between 1.1 and 1.8 billion years old! Bancroft is rich in mineral deposits, and over 1600 different minerals have been identified in the area.
A few weeks ago, I went with a couple friends to enjoy Canada’s largest gem and mineral show, the Bancroft Gemboree. We arrived on Saturday, and promptly headed to the community centre. There were a lot of great vendors selling cut gemstones, mineral samples from around the world, geodes and sculptures. There were gold panning demonstrations as well, but for our first day, there was a fair bit of shopping and drooling over all the glittery gems.
The following day, we joined up with several other people and visited the Beryl Pit. We got to dig around among piles of freshly-overturned rock, and between us we found some great samples of clear quartz, smoky quartz, peristerite, tourmaline, and even a couple small beryls (deep green aquamarines). It was sunny and hot but we filled our buckets until we could barely carry them.