Aug 10, 2012

Red Sardonyx :: Traditional Birthstone for August :: part I

Running very behind on my birthstone of the month post, 
because it seems August is fairly running away from me!
Too many projects, too little time;
but the beautiful stones of this month demand attention,
for they are far too interesting to ignore.

The traditional stone for August is a Sardonyx,
an agate striped in luscious lines of reds, oranges, whites & browns.
The modern stone for August is a Peridot,
that gem of extraordinary greenness.

We shall look at Peridots later,
but first, 
let's find out a little more about the traditional Sardonyx birthstone ...

The name Sardonyx is derived from "sard" 
(believed to be named after 
Sardis in Lydia, 
where the gems were found in ancient times,
at least according to Pliny; 
but more probably taken from the Persian word "sered" 
meaning yellowish-red),
and from the Latin word "onyx" meaning fingernail or claw,
the striped flesh tones of which are often found in the stone.

The stone is a form of chalcedony
(made from silica),
with characteristic banded stripes.
It is relatively hard, making it very suitable for hardstone carving,
especially for beads,
which highlight the beautiful wavy stripes.
Sardonyx was popular
with Ancient Egyptians, Greeks & Romans as a stone
to be carved into bowls & jewellery.
They believed it brought courage & victory 
to the wearer,
so it was often carried into battle,
especially as little talismans carved into cameos of gods.

Perhaps these early origins were the reason why the Victorians 
were so keen on using Sardonyx for their own carved cameos,
in the penchant for classical forms of decoration as the height of fashion. 
At this time, it was believed that the stone 
represented felicity, or intense happiness,
as described in our Tiffany poem above.
"Conjugal felicity" sounds charming,
but the poem warns that if, as one born in August,
one chooses not to wear Sardonyx,
one will have a pretty unhappy, lonely life.
Better increase sales in August of the gorgeous gem then! 
Or else...

The Sardonyx stone is very popular in its brighter, more red tones,
like these glorious gems from Brazil.
While they are rarely found in such beautiful colourings in nature,
they are often dyed artificially to intensify the tones.
Most stones come from India,
with smaller quantities mined in Africa, Brazil,
Czechoslovakia, Germany, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and the US.

The reddish/orange/yellow striped banding 
of the Sardonyx provides a rather lovely effect
of colour and patterning,
as a springboard for other designs, 
like clothing...

delicious hats...

upholstery in fabulously groovy stripes...

homewears like this banded picture frame...

gloriously startling vanity benchtops...

...and rather glamorous flooring. 

So if you were born in August,
and prefer red to green as your favourite colour,
then perhaps the bold Sardonyx is your stone.
And if you wear it,
and if our Tiffany poem is to be believed,
you'll have yourself a happy life, free from loneliness.
What a clever little gem!

images :: tiffany birthstones poems artwork blue fruit //

If you were born in another month,
and would like to see more about your birthstone,
click here


  1. Hello Virginia:
    Rather a clever marketing strategy on the part of Tiffany, we think!! Most likely, as you say, it helped to increase August sales.

    A most informative and varied post, Virginia, for which you have chosen some simply wonderful illustrations. The sofa is positively splendid.

    We do so hope that with the rush of August you are having some time for relaxation and to yourself.

    1. A very early form of marketing strategy, indeed. It's interesting that we tend to think of marketing as a more recent concept - yet this was the time of the snake oil salesman, and of the early Coco Cola adverts, so I guess it isn't surprising that Tiffany were so switched on.

      Relaxation? Well I am now paying the price for spending that week of paradise in Singapore!! But I truly wouldn't have it any other way.

  2. Oooh and to think that I had no idea that there was another option to my peridot! Now I wonder which one to chose, I will await with baited breath to read more on the green option, although I must admit that the promise of "intense happiness" is sounding wonderful to me!

  3. Hi Virginia:
    I'm trying to catch up with my favorite blogs as I've just came back from 2 weeks in France and completely jet lagged fully awake at 4a.m. I've missed your Singapore adventure so far. It was sans internet holidays. It's such a pleasure to return to my blogging friends and your beautiful post is a perfect welcome home.

  4. YAH August is my birth month and I have always believed that Jade was the birthstone, but it seems it is for the virgo sign. I love this series you do Virginia, and I don't want to end up alone ;O) So I have to get me some Sardonyx - ha ha - luckily I have the hubby though - hope he will stick around for a while...
    Happy weekend my friend

  5. the bathroom counter was gorgeous....onyx?

    thanks for the interesting post!
    i can 't wait to see what you will do for February.


  6. great hat and upholstery...gorgeous... xv

  7. Oh I adore that Victoria piece!

  8. the dress is so lovely ....


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