By Katie McMath
Is your birthday coming up this month? Maybe one of June’s three fascinating birthstones will capture your imagination. Chances are you’re familiar with pearls, and maybe even own a strand of them or a pair of pearl earrings. These soft stones form inside saltwater or freshwater mollusks, usually when a piece of unwelcome material irritates the animal. The mollusk then builds up layers of pearlescent nacre around the intruding object, as humans may rub a wounded elbow or massage an aching back. The nacre itself is known as “mother of pearl.”
All pearls were once natural. They were unearthed from rivers and oceans by divers in brass suits. In the late 1800s Japanese scientist Kakichi Mitsukuri discovered a way to successfully “culture” pearls by imbedding both hard and soft material under the skin of mollusks, mimicking a small animal intruder. He won a U.S. lawsuit granting him the rights to call these pearls “cultured,” rather than a cheapening name like “synthetic” or “man-made.” Pearls today are mostly made this way.
They come in as many colors as mollusks do. Tahitian oysters tend to be darker with rainbow iridescence like an oil slick, while South Seas oysters are more often golden white.
Eve’s delicate “Water Nymphs” bracelet is made of cultured freshwater pearls with a simple sterling silver clasp and translucent blue aquamarines. This beautiful piece, or another of our pretty strung pearl bracelets, can get you into the June spirit without breaking the bank. $95.
Alexandrite’s story is lesser known. This gem is as rare as it is beautiful. Named after Russian Czar Alexander II, it was believed to be discovered on his birthday in 1830. Whether or not this is literally true, it was likely discovered around the time of his rule, and came to represent this era. Czar Alexander is also known as Alexander the Liberator, as he ordered the emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861. Some fought for him to introduce a more modern Parliament structure to Russia, but he did not opt for this second dramatic change. In 1881 his enemies attempted to assassinate him, shattering his lower body in an explosion.
Like Czar Alexander, his namesake stone has two sides: liberation and conflict, progress and violence. Depending on the light Alexandrite changes from green to purplish red. Author Leskov Nicolai Semyonovich wrote about the tragic assassination attempt, saying “Look, here it is, the prophetic Russian stone! O crafty Siberian. It was always green as hope and only toward evening was it suffused with blood.”
This unique effect comes from the presence of chromium, which reflects a lot of green light. In candle light, green light is not as visible, leaving the remaining red reflection to appear more prominently. Not only is Alexandrite beautiful and unusual, it is a type of chrysoberyl, nearly as hard as diamonds.
Eve’s exquisite “Calla Lily” pendant from her “Music of the Stream” series showcases a rare abalone pearl which formed in a floral shape. Abalone are sea snails who, unlike clams, have no enclosed cavity to grow pearls. Therefore their pearls are far more rare. This pearl is also large (1 ½ inches by ⅞ inch at its widest points) and beautifully lustrous with vivid shades of teal and pink. Its three round edges are capped platinum and studded with emeralds, and diamonds. Tucked in the back is a single alexandrite, making this one of a kind pendant perfect for someone born in June. Not only does its pearl offer multicolored shine, but its hidden alexandrite can change color.
If neither pearls nor Alexandrites are your cup of tea, perhaps the lyrical beauty of moonstones will lure you in. These shimmering jewels come from the feldspar group of minerals, along with sunstones and labradorites. Moonstones specifically are known as Orthoclase. Their unique opalescence comes from thin internal layers of different feldspar minerals. The resulting shine is called schiller. If the mineral layers are very thin they appear blue, and if they are thicker they appear white. Try gazing into a moonstone of yours, or one in our gallery and guessing what’s inside.
Moonstones are often carved en cabochon, or rounded and polished. This dreamy shape prevents hard lines from fracturing the stone, and instead promotes an organic feeling of harmony, like gazing up at the moon. For millennia, moonstones have been linked to lunar mythology. 11th century Europeans believed moonstone could resolve lovers’ quarrels, and ancient Indians thought they could reveal lovers’ futures, especially during a full moon. Perhaps your love was born in June, and could appreciate the magical romance of a moonstone gift.
Eve’s whimsical “Faces of the Moon” earrings, shown with detachable pink pearl drops, are made from carved moonstones, bezel set in 14 karat gold. One moon is accented by a small white diamond. These charming lunar earrings are $960.