Pearls, Moonstone and Alexandrite
“By her who in June was born
No gem save pearls shall be worn
They will ensure her constancy
True friendship and fidelity.”
June has no less than three traditional birthstones – pearls, moonstone, and Alexandrite.
Pearls, according to Indian mythology, were dewdrops from heaven that fell into the sea. They were caught by shellfish under the first rays of the rising sunring a period of full moon. In India, warriors encrusted their swords with pearls to symbolize the tears and sorrow that a sword brings.
Unlike most gemstones that are found within the Earth, pearls have an organic origin: a pearl is created when a very small fragment of rock, sand grain or parasite enters an oyster or clam. It irritates the mollusk, which responds by coating the foreign material with layer upon layer of shell material.
Pearls formed on the inside of the shell are usually irregular in shape and have little commercial value. However, those formed within the tissue of the mollusk are either spherical or pear-shaped, and are highly valued.
The colour of the pearl depends on the species of mollusk that produced it and also on its environment. Most common is white, but they also come in delicate shades of black, cream, grey, blue, yellow, lavender, green and mauve.
Pearls were widely used as medicine in Europe until the 17th century. Arabs and Persians believed it was a cure for various kinds of diseases, as well as insanity. The ancient Chinese used pearls as medicine, believing that they represented wealth, power and longevity. Even to this day, lowest-grade pearls are ground for use as medicine in the Orient.
June’s second birthstone is the moonstone. Moonstones are believed to be named for the bluish white spots within them: When the stone is moved back and forth, silvery rays glint like moonbeams over water.
This gemstone belongs to the family of minerals called feldspars, an important group of silicate minerals commonly formed in rocks. About half the Earth’s crust is composed of feldspar.
The ancient Roman natural historian, Pliny, said that the moonstone changed in appearance with the phases of the moon, a belief that persisted until the sixteenth century. The ancient Romans also believed that the image of Diana, goddess of the moon, was enclosed within it.
Moonstones were believed to have the power to bring victory, health and wisdom to those who wore it.
In India, the moonstone is considered a sacred stone, often displayed on a yellow cloth, also considered a sacred color. The stone is believed to bring good fortune, brought on by a spirit that lives within the stone.
June’s third birthstone is the Alexandrite – an uncommon stone, and therefore very expensive.
The stone is named after Prince Alexander of Russia, who was to later become Czar Alexander II. Discovered in 1839 on the day of the prince’s birthday, Alexandrite was found in an emerald mine in the Ural Mountains of Russia.
Because it is a relatively recent discovery, there has been little time for myth and superstition to build around this unusual stone. In Russia, the stone was also popular because it reflected the Russian national colors, green and red, and was believed to bring good luck.
The Alexandrite possesses an unusual characteristic: in daylight it appears as a beautiful green, sometimes with a bluish cast or with a brownish tint. However, under artificial lighting, the stone turns reddish-violet or violet.