June babies are lucky to honor their birth month with not one gemstone, but three! Moonstone, Pearl and Alexandrite. Moonstone was the first June birthstone, followed by pearl and in 1952 Alexandrite was added to the list. All three have unique qualities, and intriguing folklore.
Moonstone is part of the Feldspar family of stones. They measure 6 to 6 ½ on the Mohs scale. Their toughness is measured as Poor, because of their crystalline structure that contains many weak planes, which allow breaks more easily. It’s certainly a gemstone that needs to be worn with care, and cleaned only with warm, soapy water. Many cultures associate Moonstone with moonlight. Moonstone scatters light that hits the stone and creates the phenomenon, adularescence. Adularescence is best described as the look of a thin veil of clouds passing over the moon, which creates added glow from of moonlight. Two characteristics to look for when purchasing moonstones, are complete colorless transparency and a deep sky-blue sheen that glows across the dome of the stone, as it is moves under a light source. The majority of Moonstone will be found cut into a cabochon. Folklore legend is said to protect, heal and empower anyone who holds it. It’s also said to bring the wearer good luck. Many believed if you held the moonstone in your mouth during a full moon, you could see the future.
Pearl is a natural, organic gemstone. It measures 2½ to 4 on the Mohs scale. Therefore, the pearl is very soft and can easily be scratched or abraded. A pearl’s toughness is usually good. Toughness in pearls can be weakened due to aging, dehydration and excessive bleaching with initial processing. Care for cleaning pearls is warm, soapy water. If a pearl is set into a ring, or earrings, it’s not recommended to submerge the piece in water. This will weaken the setting, where adhesive is used to assist in the bond to the setting. Instead, simply wipe the piece carefully with a very soft clean cloth after each wearing. Pearls are found in lakes, rivers, ocean and seas. Types of pearls are Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, Freshwater, Keshi, Blister and Mabe pearls. The popular color in pearl are white, or cream in color. Black, gray and silver are also common and desired. Due to modern modifications, pearls are available in every hue. Natural pearls, now very rare, can demand a high price. Most pearls found in the market today are cultured, which means “man” farmed them. It’s nearly impossible to detect a natural pearl from a cultured pearl. It will take a trained gemologist and possibly advanced lab testing to positively identify a pearl as natural or cultured. The higher the luster, and cleaner the skin on a pearl will demand a higher value. For centuries, pearls represent modesty, purity, and chastity. Ancient China believed the pearl to protect the wearer from fire and fire-breathing dragons. Due to spherical shape in pearls, many cultures associated them to the moon.
Alexandrite is the most modern June birthstone. It was added to represent the June birthstones in 1952. It also represents the gemstone for 55 years of marriage. It is part of the chrysoberyl family. The most intriguing phenomenon with Alexandrite is the fact that it is a pleochroism gem, meaning it changes color like a chameleon in different light sources. An ideal Alexandrite will have a beautiful shade of green in daylight or fluorescent light, and change over to purplish red in incandescent light, from a lamp or candlelight. It’s been characterized an “emerald by day, ruby by night.” Fine quality alexandrite, which holds this dramatic color change, are very rare. The current mines contain some fine quality alexandrite but many have less precise color change. Alexandrite measures 8 ½ on the Mohs scale, with excellent toughness. Therefore, it’s a very durable gemstone. Care and cleaning for an alexandrite is safe with ultrasonic, steam cleaning and also, warm soapy water. There isn’t much folklore with Alexandrite. Simply the story of 19th century miners who found the gemstone one day, gathered what they believed were emeralds. A miner took some stones back to the campfire, and noticed they were red. The next day, the stones returned to a green hue. The miners knew then that they had discovered a new gemstone. Alexandrite is thought to bring luck, good fortune, and love to the wearer.