June Birthstones: PEARL, ALEXANDRITE, MOONSTONE
That’s right.You lucky June babies have not one, not two, but THREE birthstones to choose from! Traditionally most months have just one, but over time, alternatives have been added when the original stones became too rare or cost prohibitive for most people to obtain (re: see Alexandrite!). So saddle up and hold on tight as we explore each of these three fabulous gems!
While most gemstones come from minerals, pearls belong to a very rare group of gemstones that come from organic sources. Organic gemstones are created by living organisms – clams, oysters and other mollusks.
Pearls form when a mollusk produces layers of nacre (pronounced NAY-kur) around an irritant inside its shell. In natural pearls, the irritant may be another organism from the water. In cultured pearls, a mother-of-pearl bead or a piece of tissue is inserted (by man) into the mollusk to start the process. For both, the quality of the nacre dictates the quality of the luster, or shine of the pearl, which is very important to its beauty and its value. The surface of the pearl should be smooth and free of marks while the overall shape could be round, oval, pear-shaped, or even misshapen. Misshapen pearls are called baroque pearls.
While the best known pearl color is white, pearls can occur naturally in nearly every shade! They can range from white to black, from golden to chocolate, from pink to lavender to blue and beyond! Keep in mind, wild-found natural pearls are extremely rare. Historically, many were found in the Persian Gulf, but most of these natural pearls have now been harvested. Majority of pearls in new jewelry today are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. Mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept the mother-of-pearl bead nucleus. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the technician implants the bead and then the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms. They can be grown in saltwater or freshwater and farms are found mostly in Japan, China, Australia, Indonesa, the Philippines, and French Polynesia.
METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF PEARL
Pearl signifies faith, charity and innocence. It enhances personal integrity and helps to provide a focus to ones attention. Pearl symbolizes purity and is known as a “stone of sincerity”. It brings truth to situations and loyalty to a “cause”. It’s also said to inhibit boisterous behavior.
The La Peregrina Pearl was found by African slaves in the waters off The Pearl Islands of Panama sometime in the 16th century and is one of the largest symmetrical pear-shaped pearls ever found. It has been owned by kings, queens, and more recently Elizabeth Taylor who sold it in 2011 for $116 million to a private buyer where it now resides.
Few necklaces reach the status of “iconic” but The Breakfast at Tiffany’s pearl necklace is one of them. The layered pearl necklace worn by Audrey Hepburn’s character was designed by Roger Scemama. Scemama was a French jewelry designer who frequently collaborated with the haute-couture design houses including Givenchy, Dior, Lanvin, and Yves Saint Laurent.
While the layers of pearls worn by Coco Chanel were mostly costume jewelry, she certainly brought pearl necklaces to the forefront of the fashion scene! Combining costume pearls with other fine jewelry and adding them to casual outfits suddenly made pearls accessible and very wearable!
HOW TO CHOOSE PEARLS
Pearls are one of few gems not measured by carats. Luster is the most important aspect of choosing a pearl. The finest pearls are metallic and reflective like mirrors.
Pearls can range in size from 3mm to 13mm. Because pearls do not require polishing or faceting like most gems, finding a pair of pearls that match perfectly in size, color and luster can be more difficult and more expensive. A matched strand of natural pearls may sell for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars. Here are some of our favorite finds at Bremer when it comes to pearl jewelry:
Imitation pearls have their place in the costume jewelry world, but if you’re looking for the real deal, you’ll want to educate yourself. Imitation pearls are widespread and sometimes they can be hard to spot. Here are some ways to spot fake pearls:
- Fake pearls will be too perfect. They will appear to have a fantastic luster on every part of their surface. Real pearls are formed by nature and will always have some sort of imperfection if you look close enough.
- Fake pearls have no deviations in their size or the rhythm of their size increases in a graduated strand. Once again, in a real pearl necklace, it won’t appear flawless and there will be some variation in size.
- Fake pearls, when examined under a magnifying glass, show no hints of a ring or ridges around the drill hole, while a real pearl often does.
- Fake pearls appear to have no difference in color from one pearl to another, seeming almost flat in tone, whereas a real pearl strand will have depth and include a body color and an overtone color.
- Fake pearls lack the luminosity of real pearls and don’t reflect light as well. Imitation pearls may look shiny but won’t show depth and true luster.
- Fake pearls, under magnification, will sometimes give themselves away with a sliver of glass or plastic bead showing visibly at the hole’s edge, where it is strung. A slight separation from the bead may show and chips of the pearl can even be missing.
- Fake pearls feel light, and real pearls are more hefty.
If you need to find out if pearls are natural or cultured, a gemologist can make the determination by using gemological X-ray equipment.
HOW TO CARE FOR PEARLS
Pearl is ranked 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which means it’s very soft and easily scratched or abraded. But with reasonable care, pearl jewelry can be a lasting treasure. Avoid high heat, prolonged intense light, chemicals (even hair spray and cosmetics!), and perspiration. These things can cause discoloration, splitting, or cracking. Pearls should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. It’s safe to use warm, soapy water for occasional, thorough cleaning. If the pearls are strung, be sure the string is completely dry before wearing. It’s best to wipe cultured pearls with a very soft, clean cloth after each wearing. Have pearl strands inspected annually for any stretching our weakness. If worn regularly, pearls may need to be restrung as often as once a year. For an even more extensive deep pe (see what we did there?) into the world of Pearls, check out gia.edu for the most accurate and unbiased educational information.
Often described as “emerald by day, ruby by night,” alexandrite is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that changes color from bluish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light. This chameleon-like behavior is the result of its uncommon chemical composition – which includes traces of chromium, the same coloring agent found in emerald. The unlikelihood of these elements combining under the right conditions makes alexandrite one of the rarest, costliest gems. (www.americangemsociety.org)
According to legend, this gemstone was named for Alexander II because it was discovered on the future czar’s birthday in 1834. Because alexandrite’s red and green hues matched Russia’s military colors, it became the official gemstone of Imperial Russia’s Tsardom. Originally discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains, it’s now found in Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil.
Since the discovery of alexandrite, the gemstone has been thought to bring luck, good fortune and love. In Russia, it is considered to be a stone of very good omen. It is believed to bring balance in the interaction between the physical manifest world and the unmanifest spiritual, or astral world. It opens the crown chakra, bringing one access to the warm, healing energy and love of the universe. It is also said to strengthen intuiion, creativity, and imagination. (www.jewelsforme.com)
Bremer Jewelry “BeColorful” 14k White Gold Gemstone Pendant/Charm (OCPE18093) – $95
HOW TO CHOOSE ALEXANDRITE
Alexandrite tends to contain few inclusions. Good color change and h2 colors have a higher value. Green/purple hues are more desirable than yellow/brown. Look for a medium lightness that allow for maximum color vibrancy. Stones that are too light look washed out while stones that are too dark can appear black. When certain types of long, thin inclusions are oriented parallel to each other, they can create an additional phenomenon called chatoyancy, or the cat’s-eye effect, increasing the alexandrite’s value.
Alexandrite’s pleochroism makes it a challenge for cutters. When fashioning alexandrite, cutters orient the gem to show the h2est color change through the crown. It’s crucial to position the rough so the fashioned stone shows both purplish red and green pleochroic colors face-up. Alexandrites are most commonly fashioned into what are called mixed cuts, which have brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. Brilliant cuts have kite-shaped and triangular facets, while step cuts have concentric rows of parallel facets.
Again, good quality Alexandrite is expensive and rare. If you think you might have Alexandrite but aren’t certain, bring it in and let Bremer Jewelry’s certified gemologist tell you for sure!
HOW TO CLEAN AND CARE FOR ALEXANDRITE
Alexandrite is relatively hard—8.5 on the Mohs scale. It has excellent toughness and no cleavage, which is a tendency to break when struck. This makes it a good choice for rings and other mountings subject to daily wear. (gia.edu) Alexandrite is stable under normal wearing conditions, which means it’s resistant to the effects of heat, light, and common chemicals. Warm, soapy water is always safe for cleaning alexandrite. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe unless the gem is fracture-filled.
MOONSTONE WHAT IS MOONSTONE?
Moonstone is composed of microscopic layers of feldspar that scatter light to cause this billowy effect of adularescence. Thinner layers produce a bluish sheen and thicker layers look white. Moonstone comes in a range of colors spanning yellow, gray, green, blue, peach and pink—sometimes displaying a star or cat’s eye. (www.americangemsociety.org)
WHERE IS MOONSTONE FOUND?
The finest classical moonstones—colorlessly transparent with a blue shimmer—come from Sri Lanka. Since these sources of high-quality blue moonstones have essentially been mined out, prices have risen sharply. Moonstones are also found in India, Australia, Myanmar, Madagascar and the United States. Indian gemstones—which are brown, green or orange in color—are more abundant and affordably priced than their classical blue counterparts.
METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF MOONSTONE
A stone for “new beginnings”, Moonstone is a stone of inner growth and strength. It soothes emotional instability and stress, and stabilises the emotions, providing calmness. Moonstone enhances intuition, promotes inspiration, success and good fortune in love and business matters.
HISTORY OF MOONSTONE
Adularescent moonstone was once called “adularia.” The name originated with a city in Switzerland, Mt. Adular (now St. Gotthard), that was one of the first sources of fine-quality moonstone.
According to Hindu mythology, moonstone is made of solidified moonbeams. Many other cultures also associate this gem with moonlight, and it’s easy to see why. Its internal structure scatters the light that strikes it, creating a phenomenon known as adularescence. The visual effect is reminiscent of the full moon shining through a veil of thin, high clouds. For this reason, it has been popular (especially during the Art Deco era) to carve the face of a moon into moonstone.
Great designers of the romantic Art Nouveau era, such as René Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany, featured the pale gem in custom jewelry. Moonstone was also a favorite among artisans of the Arts and Crafts era in the last half of the nineteenth century, who used it in handcrafted silver items.
Tortoiseshell and moonstone comb by René Lalique
During the 1960s “flower child” movement, moonstone provided its wearers with the desired ethereal look, and designers of the 1990s New Age movement again turned to moonstone’s natural beauty for inspiration. (www.gia.edu)
1954 – model Mary McLaughlin wearing Miriam Haskell moonstone necklace and earrings. - Circa November 1957 Condè Nast
HOW TO CHOOSE MOONSTONE
Bodycolor should be nearly colorless and free of any yellowish, brownish, or unattractive green tints. Adularescence should, ideally, be blue. The sheen should be centered on the top of a cabochon, and it should be easily seen from a wide range of viewing angles. If a moonstone’s adularescence is only visible within a restricted viewing range, its value drops.
A good moonstone should be almost transparent and as free of inclusions as possible. Inclusions can potentially interfere with the adularescence.
Classical moonstones are cut as cabochons with a high dome to accentuate the adularesence. These cabochons are typically oval, but may appear in other shapes such as sugarloaf. Always look for uniform dimensions, regardless of cut. Avoid too-flat profiles as they don’t display sheen well and are less valuable. Faceted moonstones are also becoming common. The cut can increase brilliance and hide inclusions.
MOONSTONE CARE AND CLEANING
Moonstone falls between 6 and 6.5 on the Mohs scale and has poor toughness which make it a poor choice for rings or bracelets that can receive hard knocks. High heat or sudden temperature change can cause breaks in moonstone. It is stable to light but is harmed by exposure to hydrofluoric acid. Warm soapy water is the only recommended substance for cleaning moonstones. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are never recommended!