If you follow along with the Yamron blog, then you already know about our series detailing
the various birthstones of each month. As June rolls around, we look to our next month of birthstones, but June babies are in for a real treat — this month boasts not one, not two, but three different birthstones.
Pearl, alexandrite and moonstone are all associated with the month of June (the only other months to boast three birthstones are August and December). Here’s what you need to know about each.
A Quick Lesson on Pearl
We all know pearl. Derived from saltwater and freshwater mollusks, this unique birthstone can occur naturally or be made via human intervention, which results in what is referred to as cultured pearls. Most of the pearls you see today are cultured pearls, as overfishing has caused a decline in the abundance of naturally existing pearls. Today’s pearl farms can be found all over the globe, though quite a few are in Asia, from Japan and China, all the way down to the Philippines and French Polynesia.
Historically, pearls have been beloved by a range of cultures. These cultures assigned an array of special properties to pearls and pearl jewelry. In the ancient Middle East, pearls were believed to be heavenly teardrops. The Ancient Chinese thought pearls were derived from the brains of dragons. In the Middle Ages, it was even believed that dew drops formed pearls.
In various ancient texts, advice is given on how to use pearls to provide benefits such as long life and prosperity, while also using pearls to assist with health issues, from indigestion to hemorrhages; even more recent historical texts detail how ground pearl might help with mental illness or eyesight.
Today, one of the most famous pearls in existence is the La Peregrine pearl, which is about the same shape as a bird egg. Found in the 1500s in Central America, the pearl was originally owned by European royalty, before Elizabeth Taylor acquired the pearl in the 1960s. Most recently, in 2011, the pearl was included in a Cartier necklace and auctioned by Christie’s for $11.8 million.
If you’re lucky enough to own any pearl jewelry, you’ll want to take a lot of care in cleaning and storing your pearls, as they’re highly susceptible to damage and very soft. Gently clean your pearls each time you wear them, with a lightly damp cloth, and only store your pearls alone and in soft-lined boxes or containers. Do not expose your pearls to chemicals such as cosmetics and haircare products.
A Quick Lesson on Moonstone
While everyone pretty much knows and loves pearls, not everyone knows about moonstone. This fantastical-sounding gemstone is called such due to its reflective and luminescent properties that make it appear as if it’s shining or glowing. As such, you can probably imagine that moonstones have held a revered place in history.
Moonstone can be found in a range of places across the globe, from both the Southwestern and Eastern United States to Asia. Today, most moonstone is derived from India or Sri Lanka. Historically, moonstones have been connected to gods and goddesses, especially in Roman, Greek and Hindu mythology. In fact, it’s assumed that Roman naturalist Pliny gave moonstone its name, thinking that the changing light and reflection of the stone was based on the patterns of the moon and, as the moon shifted phases, the stone would change in appearance as well. Historic cultures ascribed a range of powers to the moonstone, believing it could impact fertility and luck.
Today, moonstone can be found in vintage jewelry created by Art Nouveau designers. The moonstone is the official state gemstone of Florida, made such as a nod to the Apollo 11 moon landing. While moonstone may not be as well-known as pearl, for some cultures, such as in Scandinavia, moonstone is the preferred June birthstone.
Like pearls, moonstones are delicate and can be easily damaged, so you’ll want to take great care when wearing them. Avoid exposing them to any chemicals, as well as high heat. Use lukewarm water and a gentle dish detergent when cleaning them.
A Quick Lesson on Alexandrite
Similarly, to moonstone, alexandrite is a little less well known, compared to pearls. Alexandrite is unique because, depending on the lighting, the gemstone appears to be a different color. Under some lights, a stone could appear blue or green, while under other lights, it could appear red or purple.
Alexandrite was first mined in Russia in the early 1800s, and the gemstone gets its name from the time period’s young Russian ruler, Alexander II. The Russians particularly liked this gemstone upon its discovery, as the red and green hues mimicked the same red and green hues found in the country’s then-national colors. However, you can no longer find alexandrite in Russia. Today, you’re more likely to find the gemstone in Africa, Asia or South America; however, it’s worth noting that today’s, newly mined alexandrite is considered to be lesser in quality than the original alexandrite mined in Russia. Synthetic alexandrite is also available, grown in a lab, but don’t make the mistake of assuming synthetic alexandrite is less expensive than the real deal, the expensive lab process results in a hefty price tag.
Historically, after Russia’s discovery of the gemstone (which is relatively modern by gemstone standards), alexandrite became popular with jewelers and designers throughout the world, including at
Tiffany & Co.
Some of today’s most famous alexandrite gemstones include the largest known faceted alexandrite, which lives at the Smithsonian Institute. This gemstone was found in Sri Lanka and features a green-brown-red hue; it weighs in at 65.7 carats. The Smithsonian Institute is also home to the Whitney Alexandrite, which weighs in at 17.08 carats, and features that most desirable red-green hue; the gemstone was discovered in Brazil and is known as the finest Brazilian alexandrite in existence. The gemstone is named after Carolyn Wright Whitney, a long-time supporter of the Smithsonian and a founding member of the Smithsonian Gemstone Collectors committee.
Compared to pearls and moonstone, alexandrite is much harder and more durable, making it somewhat easier to care for. It can stand up to daily wear easily, as well as the most popular cleaning methods used at jewelers’ today. Most high-quality alexandrite features few inclusions (though needle-like inclusions can create a cat’s eye effect) and the gemstone is available in a variety of cuts; most cuts weigh less
than a carat.
Need to Know More?
Need to know more about all things pearl, moonstone or alexandrite? Whether you’re just brushing up on your gemstone knowledge or you’re in the market for a new piece of jewelry or a standalone gemstone, you should check out the Yamron blog and subscribe to the Yamron newsletter for insider tips on buying, trading and collecting fine jewelry and timepieces. As a subscriber, you’ll also get access to Yamron Magazine Monthly, as well as Yamron’s unlisted inventory and content. If you’re in Naples,
stop by our newly renovated showroom to see our inventory in person.
June Birthstones (Gemological Institute of America Inc.)
June Birthstones (The American Gem Society)
June Birthstone: Alexandrite – Facts And Lore (One Hundred East Fine Jewelry)
Smithsonian Receives Historic $13 Million Donation for Education at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian)