Illuminating the Mystical Birthstones of June: Moonstone, Pearl, and Alexandrite

June Birthstones: Moonstone, Pearl, Alexandrite:

The idea of birthstones has reverberated across cultures and eras. Each birthstone is endowed with specific properties and, some experts believe, special powers.

Birthstones have deep biblical roots dating to the Book of Exodus and the breastplate worn by Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites, which bore 12 jewels. During early Christendom, the stones became linked to the 12 months of the year and zodiac signs, but it wasnt until the 18th century that the gemstones became associated with the wearers birth month. There are three lists of birthstones: ancient, traditional, and modern. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers in America defined the modern list of birthstones. The list ensured that American jewelers had access to and could easily sell these stones.

Today, there are anywhere between one and three gemstones representing each month of the year, and every birthstone comes with its own history and legends. They can usually be found in rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. The modern list was expanded in 1952 by the Jewelry Industry Council of America, which added rare alexandrite to June, citrine to November, pink tourmaline to October, and zircon to December. In 2002 Tanzanite was added to December’s stones, and in 2016 spinel was added to August.

Although birthstones no longer hold religious meaning, some still believe that the stones possess healing or mystical powers and can offer protection. If you were born in the month of June, you have a choice of three birthstones. Lustrous pearls, color-shifting alexandrite and glowing moonstone are all associated with those born under the signs of Gemini and Cancer. June is one of three months (the others are August and December) that has three birthstones.

Moonstone: The Celestial Gem

Luminescent moonstone is the best-known gem belonging to the feldspar group of minerals. Its composed of alternating layers of orthoclase and albite. When light hits the moonstone, it bounces off in many directions, producing the phenomenon called adularescence, a special blue-ish glow.

Adularescent moonstone was once called adularia”, after a city in Switzerland, Mt. Adular (now St. Gotthard), which was one of the first places where fine-quality moonstone was discovered. Moonstone can be found all over the world, but particularly in India and Sri Lanka, as well as in the Austrian Alps, Brazil, Madagascar, Myanmar and Tanzania.

June Birthstones: Moonstone, Pearl, Alexandrite: Moonstone and Diamond Clip-on Brooch, Tiffany & Co.

Moonstone and Diamond Clip-on Brooch, Tiffany & Co. Sold for $30,000 USD via Sotheby’s (September 2019).

Moonstone’s Ethereal Glow and Mystical Powers 

This captivating birthstone has been linked with both the Roman and Greek lunar deities. It also features in Hindu mythology, according to which it is made of solidified moonbeams as its luminescence is suggestive of the beam of the full moon. Moonstone comes in a variety of shades: blue moonstone is crystal-clear with a changing blue tone on the surface; a rainbow moonstone has a milky appearance; and it also comes in tones of white, green and pink.

The Cultural Significance of Moonstone

According to legends, moonstone brings good luck and is often associated with love, passion and fertility. In various cultures, it has been used as an amulet for the protection of travelers; it was also once popular among sailors who believed that a moonstone on their shop would protect them from the elements.

To the ancient Greeks, the moonstone was connected to the goddesses Artemis, Hecate, and Selene. The first goddess is the patroness of hunting and fertility, the second is the goddess of magic and moonlight, and Selene is the goddess of the moon.

In Indian culture, a moonstone is linked with love and wisdom and is a traditional wedding gift. It is also believed that it can help with emotional wellbeing and can enhance feelings of calm and happiness.

Moonstone in Jewelry, Fashion, Art and Design

Moonstone was used to great effect in handcrafted silver pieces during the last half of the 19th century during the Arts and Crafts movement. Art Nouveau artists such as René Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany favored the use of moonstone in their fine jewelry. It became popular again in the 1960s and with New Age designers of the 1990s.

Moonstones are typically crafted into cabochons, which enhances their schiller” – or lustre. Sometimes moonstones are cut into cushion shapes, but the stone can be brittle, which can cause it to crack if exposed to high heat. 

Pearl: The Oceans Treasure

Pearls are some of the earliest gems known to mankind – and no shaping or cutting is needed to reveal their allure. This popular June birthstone comes from oceans, lakes and rivers around the world. It is formed by a mollusk and consists of the same material as the mollusks shell. Natural or wild pearls have been found in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea for thousands of years, while freshwater pearls have been known in China from before 1000 BCE. During Spanish colonial rule in the 16th century, large amounts of pearls were found in the waters off the coasts of Mexico, Central America and what is now Venezuela. People learnt to cultivate pearls in 13th-century China; the technique was later perfected in Japan and Europe. Today, fine-quality natural pearls are rare and very highly valued and farms supply most of the pearls in use today. Cultured pearls come in a wide array of sizes and colors.

Saltwater cultured pearls are grown around the world, with large operations in China, the Philippines and French Polynesia, where black Tahitian pearls are cultured. China is also the market leader for freshwater cultured pearls.

Lustrous Elegance and Symbolic Meaning

Pearls are known for their translucence and lustre and for the delicate play of surface colors, which is called “orient”. Their shape (spherical or droplike) and the depth of their lustre determine their value. The origin of pearls has historically been a point of fascination. Those living in the Middle East believed that pearls were teardrops that had from heaven. The Chinese said that pearls came from the brain of a dragon. At the time of Christopher Columbus, the belief was that mollusks formed pearls from dew drops.

The Cultural Significance of the Pearl

This June birthstone has long been associated with attributes such as purity, humility and innocence and have traditionally been given as a wedding gift. From the earliest times, pearls have been credited with mystical properties and healing virtues, with many cultures believing that they can bestow a long life and improve ailments such as indigestion and low spirits. The practice of dissolving or crushing pearls and drinking the concoction to cure ailments went on well into the 19th century. Arabian doctors in 1825 believed powdered pearls could alleviate weak eyes, nervousness, heart palpitations and haemorrhaging.

Pearls in Jewelry and Fashion

Pearls have been used in jewelry since Roman times, and even earlier in China. By the 14th and 15th centuries, colorful gems became more widely available, and pearls were used as an outline to provide a contrast. The Renaissance was an era of opulence, and pearl jewelry became popular throughout Europe, especially with the influx of enormous amounts of saltwater pearls from the newly discovered Americas. Europes royalty wore large amounts of pearls to show their wealth and power, not least Henry IIIV and Elizabeth I, who had hundreds of pearls sewn into their garments. By the 1800s it was common to see pearls in everything from necklace designs to earrings, bracelets, and tiaras. As the new middle classes became more wealthy, pearls were incorporated into many items of jewelry for everyday wear, from long strings of pearls to hair ornaments. Men wore pearls as well, as shirt studs and cufflinks. Pearls continue to be popular gems, their sheen and lustre never going out of fashion.

 Alexandrite: The Color-Changing Gem

Alexandrite comes from the chrysoberyl mineral family, and has the amazing ability to change color in different light. Those that have a green hue in sunlight, and an intense red in artificial light, are deemed the most precious. Major deposits were uncovered in 1830 in the Ural Mountains in Russia. The gem was so unusual that it was named in honor of Alexander II, the future czar of Russia. As the Ural Mountain mines are now largely depleted, most alexandrite comes from Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa. Their colors are not as distinct as those found in 19th-century Russia. By the 1950s, alexandrite joined the list of birthstones as the modern alternative to pearls and moonstone. This modern June birthstone is very rare and valuable.

 Color-Changing Properties

Alexandrite is known for the optical phenomenon called chatoyancy or the cats eye, whereby a band of reflected light glides across the gems surface. This is caused by light reflecting off parallel bundles of fibrous crystals of another mineral inside the gemstone. Few gems are as fascinating as cats-eye alexandrite. Alexandrite found in Sri Lanka often appears olive-green in sunlight, whereas Russian gems are bluish green.

Alexandrite became prestigious as its colors – red and green – mirrored the national military colors of imperial Russia. Its connection to the royal family helped to make it popular. George F. Kunz, Tiffanys gemologist at the time, also made several trips to Russia in search of fine alexandrites.

Because the stone is so rare, a considerable market has developed for lab-grown alexandrite, which was first developed in the 1960. These man-made stones have the same chemical compounds and physical properties as natural alexandrites but cost significantly less.

Alexandrite in Jewelry, Fashion, Art and Design

Alexandrite is considered by many to be one of the rarest and most expensive gems. Its rarity and fascinating color-changing properties has made it a highly sought-after stone among collectors and jewelry lovers. This gemstone most often appears in engagement rings.

Collecting and Care

The rich history and symbolism of birthstones means that they can be particularly significant to the wearer, whether they come as rings, bracelets, pendants, or earrings. Those born in the month of June, under the signs of Gemini and Cancer, are lucky to be able to choose from three different birthstones. As with any gem, it is good to be aware of provenance, history, and how to take care of them. Moonstone is not particularly tough and should be cleaned with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Pearls are extremely soft and require special care – they scratch easily so store them away from other jewelry to avoid damage and never in a plastic bag, and clean them with a soft damp cloth. If you are lucky enough to possess an alexandrite, know that it has excellent toughness and durability; take care of it by cleaning it with warm, soapy water and a soft brush.