Those born on June can count themselves lucky because, unlike other months, they have three birthstones: pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. Pearl is usually the primary birthstone, although June celebrants have the option of picking what resonates with them the most. It’s also the most accessible for daily wear, since moonstone and alexandrite are rarer and much more exotic. To help you choose, we’ve elaborated on the physical qualities, symbolism, and history of each gemstone below.
Out of these three, pearls are the most well-known and easily recognizable. Revered for their elegant beauty all throughout history, pearls appear creamy white with a reflective luster that evokes many colors, and they’re often presented as a necklace strand or a simple earring.
Qualities of Pearl
What makes pearls stand out among gemstones is that they’re the only one made by living creatures—mollusks in freshwater and some clams and oysters, specifically. When irritants such as a tiny rock or a grain of sand get stuck in their shell, mollusks respond by forming layers of calcium carbonate around it, and this eventually becomes a pearl. However, even though all shelled mollusks can make pearls, the ones used for jewelry only come from certain types of clams. These sought after pearls are formed inside the tissue, while pearls that form just inside the shell end up misshapen and have no commercial value.
Contrary to expectations, pearls aren’t always white. They can be pink, brown, purple, or blue among others, and the color depends on the type of oyster that produced the pearl. Unlike most gemstones, the value of a pearl is based on luster rather than carat, with the most expensive pearls reflecting as clearly as mirrors.
Pearls are also very soft, with a score of only 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale, and they dissolve easily in vinegar, sensitive as they are to acidity. In terms of size, they range from 3 mm to 13 mm. When buying, an effective way to figure out if a pearl is real is to rub two of them together—the sensation should be gritty rather than smooth. A convenient, low-key way to wear it is as a ring. Shamrock Gift’s sterling silver pearl ring subtly incorporates the trinity knot, a combination that evokes a sense of timelessness and grace.
History of Pearl
Even as far back as Ancient Greece, pearls were already used as accessories. Many mythologies have formed around them all over the world, from linking them to the moon because of the similar appearance to describing them as tears of the gods or of mythical creatures such as nymphs and mermaids. They were even thought to have medicinal properties in Europe. The ancient Chinese thought that pearls could confer eternal youth, which is why until now, low-grade pearls are incorporated into some beauty formulas.
In fact, pearls were first found in the sarcophagus of an Egyptian princess, and for many centuries, only the rich could own them. They were also often worn by brides during weddings as a symbol of innocence and purity, as well as wisdom, faith, and charity—the same personality traits assigned to June birthday celebrants. One meaning ascribed to them is bringing truth and sincerity to any situation. However, an economic shift happened in the 1900s when pearls started to be commercially cultured in Asia. As the supply increased, they became affordable and staggered across a wide range for budgets, and they became classic, if not common, ornaments.
Pearls used to be found in many parts of the world, but now only the Persian Gulf produces them naturally. Cultured freshwater pearls are much more abundant and mostly come from China, while saltwater pearls are pricier, with categories based on their place of origin. Among saltwater pearls, to name a few, South Sea pearls are large and highly prized, Akoya pearls are the most popular, and Tahitian pearls come from the South Pacific.
Alexandrite is a rare variety of the chrysoberyl family. Known as beryllium aluminum oxide, it’s highly prized for how it radically changes color depending on the light, and it was the official gemstone of imperial Russia.
Qualities of Alexandrite
Described as an “emerald by day, ruby by night,” the alexandrite is extremely difficult to imitate, unique as its effect is. Under daylight, it appears to be green with a slight brown or blue tint, then turns purplish red against incandescent light from fire or a lamp. The transformation is especially amazing when you switch back and forth between two light sources and it happens almost instantly. This property isn’t unique to alexandrite, but no other gemstone does it with as much color change. As a homage to this, the phenomenon itself has been dubbed the Alexandrite effect. The more greatly an alexandrite can change color, the higher its value.
For alexandrite’s near-magical properties, we have its chemical composition to thank. Alexandrite has traces of chromium, which is the same element that makes ruby red and emerald green. Another reason for its visual complexity is that it has three different optical directions, meaning that you see different colors depending on what direction you’re looking at it from. On the Mohs scale, its hardness ranks at 8.5, so it’s more or less safe to wear as an everyday accessory. If a June birthday celebrant in your life might love alexandrite, Shamrock Gift has two kinds of necklaces with an alexandrite pendant as well as a silver Claddagh ring that stands for love, loyalty, and friendship.
History of Alexandrite
Compared to other gemstones, which have been used by humans for thousands of years, alexandrites were only unearthed around 200 years ago in the emerald mines of Russia’s Ural Mountains. As the legend goes, this was the same day as Prince Alexander II’s coming-of-age birthday, and so it became his namesake. Alexandrite’s colors of red and green also match Russia’s national colors. These two coincidences helped make alexandrite very popular in Russia, such that it became Imperial Russia’s official gemstone. In the present, alexandrites are mainly found in Sri Lanka as well as in Brazil and East Africa, although these are less vivid in color compared to the original ones from Russia. Just one alexandrite was dug up then in Russia for every hundred or so emeralds. Because of its scarcity, alexandrite is expensive—even more so than rubies ad diamonds!
With only a brief history, there isn’t a lot of symbolism ascribed to alexandrite. The change in color seems almost magical and elicits awe, though. It’s not surprising that alexandrites are said to inspire the imagination and boost intuition and creativity. Another function is encouraging spiritual growth and soothing the mind and emotions. In Russia, it’s seen as an excellent omen that, according to folktales, brings good luck, abundance, and love to whoever owns it.
Moonstones appear shimmery and ethereal. Generally silver and pale with a gentle bluish glow in the middle, they seem like they’re emitting moonbeams when you hold them up to the light. Move it back and forth, and the colors shift around as if on a watery surface.
Qualities of Moonstone
Moonstone is a gem variety of the mineral feldspar, which makes up around half of the earth’s crust. It’s composed of extremely small layers of feldspar that scatter light, forming the well-known visual effect. This phenomenon is called adularescence. The irregularity of a moonstone partly comes from the layers, with thinner layers looking bluish and thicker layers appearing white. Beyond the classic blue-on-white moonstone, it can have various colors, including gray, blue, green, pink, and yellow. Its hardness rates low, reaching from 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. A moonstone is prone to cracking and cleaving amidst sudden temperature change or in an excessively hot environment, and it doesn’t react well with hydrofluoric acid. Because of this sensitivity, they’re best worn as pendants and brooches rather than rings, which are more exposed to wear and tear.
The more transparent a moonstone is and the bluer its shimmer, the higher its value. Ideally, you can see the shimmer from several angles. The most classic cut is the oval cabochon with uniform dimensions, but faceted moonstones are also available since the cut heightens brilliance. For the best moonstones, Sri Lanka is the primary source. Prices have hiked up sharply, though, because moonstones are becoming much more difficult to find. Thankfully, there’s no synthetic moonstone being sold because the gem’s natural, ever-shifting beauty is practically impossible to fake.
History of Moonstone
Even though moonstones were discovered separately by different cultures, many of them somehow made the connection to the moon and treated it as both a talisman and a valuable accessory. The Greek Historian Pliny came up with the name because he wrote that the moonstone’s appearance was influenced by the phases of the moon—an idea that was believed until the 16th century. The Greeks connected it to their lunar divinities, and in India, the moonstone was considered sacred with a spirit inside it and presented on a yellow cloth.
Artists from all sorts of historical periods were charmed by it, carving the moon on it or incorporating it in handcrafted silver. The New Age and hippie movements favored it because of its surreal look. In 1970, Florida even declared it as their official state gemstone as a tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing, which took place within the state. Some countries such as Scandinavia and Germany even prefer it over the pearl or the alexandrite as June’s birthstone.
Moonstones are currently found in Sri Lanka, the Alps, Madagascar, Myanmar, India, and the US. Perhaps because of its daydreamy appearance, it’s considered to impart emotional strength and inner growth, evening out moods and soothing its owner. In line with the moon’s symbolism, it also brings inspiration and sharpens intuition.
Although gemstones are striking enough at face value, they often contain a deeper story, and it’s fascinating to learn about how they were used throughout history up until the present. Each also has a unique character. Pearl is elegant and comes from living creatures; moonstone is ethereal and shimmers like moonbeams; and alexandrite is chameleonic and switches between the colors of ruby and emerald.
While the perfect birthstone resonates with the qualities that you want to cultivate, what these three have in common—and what comes naturally to June celebrants—are classiness, adaptability, and intuition. If that sounds like any June celebrant you know, then consider it a thoughtful gesture to give them a gift that embodies that—or to simply thank and honor them for their birthday.
Shop ShamrockGift.com’s entire Celtic birthstone collection of Irish jewelry today.