June is one of the lucky few months that hasthree birthstones associated with it – pearl, moonstone, and alexandrite – which leaves all you June babies out there spoilt for choice!
Why does June have three birthstones?
The reason why June has multiple birthstones can be traced back to 1912, when the National Association of Jewellers of America met to standardise which birthstone would correspond with which month of the year. At this meeting it was decided that June would have two birthstones: pearl and moonstone. The list was then expanded in 1952 by the Jewellery Industry Council of America, who added alexandrite.
Birthstone #1: Pearl
Pearls are beloved by many jewellery enthusiasts today for the sophisticated feel they carry and the touch of elegance they add to almost any outfit.
Unlike most precious stones, which are discovered within the earth, pearls are the only gemstones created by living creatures. Mollusks living in saltwater make pearls by coating microscopic pieces of sand that enter their shells with layers of calcium carbonate. This results in the smooth, shiny gem we call the pearl. Today, it’s common for pearls to originate from pearl farms, where pearls are harvested from mollusks by technicians.
Pearls are known for their white or off-white colour, as well as their spherical shape and shine. However, perfectly coloured and shaped pearls are rare, which is the reason we use the word ‘pearl’ in our everyday language today to describe something rare or valuable. Pearls can be found in a variety of colours, such as black, blue, lavender, pink, and champagne.
Pearls are very soft gemstones, coming in between 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, with diamonds ranking at 10 for comparison. While most jewellery should be stored away from sunlight, excessive heat or damp conditions, the exception to this rule is pearls, which do best in a moist environment due to the fact that they originate in water. For this reason, contrary to the jewellery care advice you may have received about your other precious gems, pearls should not be stored in airtight conditions when not in use - this will leave them prone to cracking. This means that simply wearing them regularly can help keep your pearls in excellent, glowing condition because of the moisture from your skin.
Birthstone #2: Moonstone
Moonstone is often described as ‘magical’ in appearance by gem enthusiasts, and often used in boho-style jewellery designs due to its unique sheen.
Moonstone is made of 'feldspar', which are a group of the most widespread minerals in the earth’s crust, as well as some of the most diverse.
The rarity of the ancient gem, which is thought to be as old as the moon, is one of the reasons why June, like August and December, has three birthstones – the rarity of Moonstone means it is less readily available it is to those wanting to purchase a birthstone for someone born in June.
Moonstone is prized for its blueish-white colour, which is thought to resemble moonlight glowing in the water. When light shines on a moonstone, it scatters in many directions. This creates ‘adularescence,’ which is the name for the phenomenon where light billows across a gemstone, giving its surface a glowing appearance. In moonstone, this results in a stunning visual effect that resembles the full moon shining through a veil of thin, high clouds.
Moonstone is a 6 - 6.5 on the Mohs scale but is not very tough and can crack when exposed to high temperatures, which means it would be best to get your moonstone professionally cleaned when the time comes, rather than attempting this yourself, just to be on the safe side. This also makes moonstone a less favourable choice for everyday wear in jewellery pieces such as engagement rings, especially when compared to harder gems such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies, or even the third June birthstone – alexandrite.
Birthstone #3: Alexandrite
Last but not least, the most recent addition to June’s array of birthstones is alexandrite, an increasingly rare but highly treasured stone.
This precious gem was named after Tsar Alexander II, heir apparent to the Russian throne, in 1830, which is when it was first discovered in the Ural Mountains. Alexandrite is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl, which absorbs light in a complex, fascinating way.
Another stone that is highly favoured for its unique colouring, some describe the gemstone as being one that is an “emerald by day, ruby by night,” due to its colour-changing properties. Alexandrite appears greenish-blue in daylight or fluorescent light, but when viewed under incandescent light, such as candlelight, it will appear a shade of purple to red.
Mysterious and fascinating in its colouring, and coming in at a respectable 8.5 on the Mohs scale (just under rubies and sapphires which are a 9), alexandrite can be a good choice for an engagement ring if your taste is more unique, or for another jewellery piece intended for daily wear. Storing alexandrite separately from harder gemstones, or wrapping it in a soft cloth prior to storage, will prevent the stone from being scratched and keep it looking its best.