Wednesday, 8 October 2014

August birthstones

Over halfway through the year and we're still going on our birthstones theme. In August, we had a choice between peridot and sardonyx.

Cindy decided to work with peridot.

She was particularly interested in the mythology relating to the stone. She ragged the background colour to make it look like stone.

Maz also became fascinated with peridot, first with its history. Peridot was mined in Roman times on an island in the Red Sea called Topazos (modern Zabargad), and again in more modern times. It's believed that peridot was originally called topaz, from this island. The origin on the name peridot is unknown; perhaps it comes from a Latin word for a kind of opal; perhaps from an Arabic word meaning gem.

 Like Cindy, she was also interested in the gem's supposed mystical properties...

... but she also became interested in the famous Hapsburg peridot parure, dating from around 1825. (A parure is a collection of matching items of jewellery, in this case a crown or tiara, earrings, brooch and choker necklace.)

It's made from diamonds and peridots and Maz found images of Princess Isabella, great granddaughter of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, wearing the whole shebang.

It's believed that the first owner was Archduchess Henriette of Austria, who was her grandmother. It was auctioned off in the 1930s and subsequently worn by Joan Rivers to the Golden Globe awards in 2004.

Nola chose sardonyx as her August birthstone, because "it sounds like the birthstone of the perpetually sarcastic". She was interested in its formation, as chalcedony deposits on the surface of amygdala, holes left in lava when gas is trapped inside the molten rock. Because of this build up of layers, sardonyx was often carved into cameos to create areas of colour contrast. It was used in ancient societies like Egypt and Minoan Crete and in Greece and Rome.

The most detailed cameo she found is known as the Great Cameo of France, although its origins are Roman. It was carved in 23AD to demonstrate the right of the emperor Tiberius to rule Rome. It shows his Julio-Claudian ancestors and his designated heir.
It's believed to have come to France via the Byzantine Empire, before 1279, when it first appears in the records of the royal family. It's held in the Bibliotheque Nationale.

Nola also did some pages on Ruby in her journal, even though we had made artworks on the theme. She wanted to record the book she made and the way she made it.

September's birthstone is sapphire. That should be interesting!

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