A shimmering orb of light, ethereal and pearlescent, full of mystery and romance… These words would be just as apt describing a moonstone as they would the celestial body this gem is named after. Moonstone has been coveted since antiquity, its characteristics undeniably reminiscent of a full moon. Beyond their beauty, moonstones have a certain mystique about them that creates natural associations with the other intangibilities of life: love, dreams, and the future. In both symbolism and physical properties, moonstones are a fascinating gemstone.
Moonstone is a member of the feldspar group, one of the most common minerals on earth. Feldspar minerals compose around 60% of the earth’s crust, and can be found all over the world. Moonstone ranges from 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, and is considered more fragile than quartz gemstones.
Moonstone is formed through a combination of orthoclase and albite. When the formation cools, the orthoclase and albite separate into alternating layers. This creates the ethereal, shimmering look that makes the moonstone appear to glow from within. This effect is known as adularescence.
Moonstone is usually cut en cabochon, as this is the best way to show off the gem’s adularescence. Moonstones range from semi-transparent colorless to opaque white. The adularescence can appear blue, silver, or white. In addition to colorless and white, the body color of a moonstone can be gray, green, brown, yellow, or nearly black. The most coveted characteristic of moonstone is a blue flash or sheen. Beyond the beauty of it, this factor indicates a truly fine specimen. Rare varieties of moonstone exhibit chatoyancy or asterism effects, giving the gem a cat’s eye or star appearance, respectively.
In addition to orthoclase, the other species of feldspar that produce gem-quality specimens are labradorite, oligoclase (sunstone), and microcline (amazonite). One variety of labradorite is known as rainbow moonstone. Although this gem is not technically moonstone (they are different species of feldspar), it is sometimes referred to as such by jewelers and gem sellers. A layperson can distinguish the two by examining the gem’s interior, as rainbow moonstone will appear to be a colorless labradorite with plains of flashing color, while true gem-quality moonstone will have a pure, homogeneous interior with an adularescence that flows throughout.
Moonstone figures into worship and mythology throughout history and all over the world. In Ancient Rome, as well as Hindu mythology, moonstone was believed to be formed by the moon itself. Some believed that holding the gem in your mouth during a full moon could allow you to see your future. In addition to divination, moonstones are also associated with love, romance, fertility, and dreams. In Arab countries, it was not unheard of for women to sew moonstones into their undergarments to encourage pregnancy. The fertility association was common in other cultures as well – some people believed that burying a moonstone in a garden under the full moon would yield a bountiful harvest.
Moonstone was a favorite among fine jewelry makers and the artists of the Arts and Crafts movement during the end of the nineteenth century. This romantic gem was perfectly suited for the celestial imagery and nature inspired designs that were so popular during the Art Nouveau and Late Victorian eras. The Roman moon goddess Diana was commonly depicted in jewelry during this time, and moonstones were a perfect match to the feminine symbolism she was associated with. Moonstone would again surge in popularity through the nature worshipping New Age movements of the 1960’s and 1990’s.
At Market Square Jewelers, we love moonstone for its beautiful properties that, like opals, are completely unique to it. Although the gem is considered a June birthstone, it is highly versatile and easy to wear all year long. We have moonstone jewelry from a variety eras and styles, shop our moonstone jewelry collection here.