6 June 2023
Technically June has three official birthstones, but, as you will see, only two are relative.
Pearls are the only gemstone made by a living creature, all the rest are minerals. When something as microscopic as a grain of sand finds its way into a mollusk, the mollusk starts producing calcium carbonate around it to avoid the irritation. Any mollusk can produce a pearl, but only clams use mother-of-pearl, which is what humans value. They are naturally lusterous, need no polishing, and are quite rare.
When the mollusk shell is laid open, it resembles a leg of lamb, thus the French perle, or leg, and our version pearl.
Today natural pearls are only available in the Persian Gulf around Bahrain and from the Australian pearling fleet in the Indian Ocean. Freshwater cultured pearls come from China. South Sea cultured pearls hail from Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Pearls are symbolic of innocence, faith, integrity, and sincerity. Brides will wear them on a wedding day and are sometimes given as gifts to babies. They can be good gifts for the first, 12th (go figure?), or 30th anniversary.
Natural, round pearls will be very expensive. Most pearls in today’s marketplace are cultured. Imitations are made from conch shells or glass coated with fish scales. Experts will use gemological equipment to see if the object has concentric growth rings that is the earmark of a natural pearl, or a solid core that indicates a cultured pearl.
They are also unique in that they are not measured in carats. Luster is the key factor and the best will reflect light and almost look metallic. They are very soft and very sensitive. Keep them away from extreme heat and acidity. In fact natural pearls will dissolve in vinegar.
Pearls have legends:
- From Persia we hear that they were created when a rainbow met the earth after a storm.
- Japanese tales include that pearls were formed from tears of mermaids, angels and other mystical creatures.
- From Tahiti we have Oro, the god of peace and fertility, visiting the earth on a rainbow and bringing a magical oyster that contained a black pearl for his love interest, Princess Bora Bora.
- Also from the South Pacific is the full moon projecting beams of light for oysters to surface and make colorful gems.
- Lastly, the Chinese thought that black pearls were formed inside a dragon’s head. When the dragon was mature, the pearls were held between its teeth but to gain access to them, one would need to slay the dragon.
Moonstones develop from microscopic layers of feldspar, which is a group of minerals that makes up more than half the earth’s crust. As the process continues, different colors seem to appear and some stones finish with what looks like a star or cat’s eye. It is the most valuable of the stones made of feldspar. When you rotate the stone in front of a light, there seems to be a floating light coming from it. This is called adularescence and is caused by the various configurations of the feldspar layers.
Those that are the most transparent come from Sri Lanka and will carry the highest price tag since they are rare. The most affordable come from India but can also be found in Myannmar, Madagascar, Australia, and the United States.
Just like with a diamond, look for color, clarity, cut, and carat. They can be found in various colors from white, yellow, gray, pink. There is no synthetic version of this gemstone but chalcedony (silica similar to quartz) is sometimes pawned off as moonstone, but it is quite easy to see the difference.
It is thought that moonstone will bring good luck to the wearer and in ancient times, was considered to arouse tender passions in lovers. If placed in one’s mouth during a full moon, the person could foretell his or her personal future.
Moonstones have a weakness that makes them easily broken and soft. High heat, sudden temperature changes can damage it and hydrofluoric acid is disaster. Because it is rather delicate, it is usually set into pendants and earrings, which are less likely to be hit and damaged. Clean them with warm, soapy water; other methods, including ultrasonic and steam, should be avoided.
Believing that it was made from moonbeams, there are a number of myths associated with it:
- Romans thought it would bring love, wealth, and success.
- Every 21 years, blue moonstones came in with the tide.
- In India it is a traditional wedding gift. They also feel the stone’s sheen would change with the waxing and waning of the moon. In Hindu, it is sacred and could bring beautiful dreams.
- Current times allow people to feel it will help with the ability to adapt, or go with the flow like ocean waves.
- Florida adopted the moonstone as a state symbol to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon mission.
As mentioned at the start of this piece, there are technically three official birthstones for June. However, Alexandrite is now so rare that it is priced beyond the reach of most of us.
It was found in 1834 on the same date that future Czar Alexander II became of age and was named on his behalf. It changes from bluish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent illumination. It is formed from a mineral chrysoberyl and contains the same color agent as an emerald, chromium. In addition to the rarity of the combination of minerals, it was mined to exhaustion in Russia. What we can find today is far inferior to the original and comes from Sri Lanka, Brazil, and East Africa. It has been grown as a synthetic but the process is still expensive.
It is softer than sapphire and harder than garnet.