June is one of only two months that has three birthstones associated with it, giving the lucky people born in June a choice of gemstones between pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone.
June’s birthstones range from creamy-colored opalescent pearl and moonstone to the rare color-changing alexandrite—one of the most valuable gems on earth. With this spectrum of price points and color options, people with June birthdays can choose a beautiful gemstone to fit any mood or budget.
PEARL BUYING TIPS
If you’re shopping for perfectly round natural pearls, you’ll need patience and a large pocketbook. Most pearls on the market today are produced by culturing, giving pearl buyers a wealth of options.Pearls make the perfect gift for babies born in June or under the signs of Gemini or Cancer. As ancient symbols of purity and innocence, pearls are traditionally worn by a bride on her wedding day—making pearl jewelry a great gift to celebrate a bride-to-be or a 1st, 3rd, 12th or 30th anniversary.
Most freshwater cultured pearls are made in China, while common saltwater cultured pearls include Akoya, white or golden South Sea, and black Tahitian. Colors can range from creamy white to pink, yellow, brown, purple, blue, green, silver or an iridescent rainbow of hues like a peacock.
Pearls are one of few gems not measured by Karats. Luster is the most important aspect of choosing a pearl. The finest pearls are metallic and reflective like mirrors.
Beware imitation pearls or shell pearls, which are made from conch shells or glass coated with a solution containing fish scales. Rubbing two pearls together will reveal if they are smooth imitation stones, or if they feel gritty from the nacre that comprises natural and cultured pearls.Pearls can range in size from 3mm to 13mm. Because pearls do not require polishing or faceting like most gems, finding a pair of pearls that match perfectly in size, color and luster can be more difficult—and more expensive. A matched strand of natural pearls may sell for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars.
Gem experts can distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using gemological X-ray equipment. Natural pearls consist entirely of concentric growth rings, while cultured pearls have a solid nucleus of the bead or shell that was implanted to stimulate pearl production.
While any shelled mollusk can technically make a pearl, only two groups of bivalve mollusks (or clams) use mother-of-pearl to create the iridescent “nacreous” pearls that are valued in jewelry. These rare gems don’t require any polishing to reveal they're natural luster.Pearls are the only gemstones made by living creatures. Mollusks produce pearls by depositing layers of calcium carbonate around microscopic irritants that get lodged in their shells—usually not a grain of sand, as commonly believed.
Appropriately, the name “pearl” comes from the Old French perle, from the Latin pernameaning “leg,” referencing the leg-of-mutton shape of an open mollusk shell. Because perfectly round, smooth natural pearls are so uncommon, the word “pearl” can refer to anything rare and valuable.
The rarest, and therefore most expensive, pearls are natural pearls made in the wild. The majority of pearls sold today are cultured or farmed by implanting a grafted piece of shell (and sometimes a round bead) into pearl oysters or freshwater pearl mussels.
Pearls are very soft, ranging between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale. They are sensitive to extreme heat and acidity; in fact, calcium carbonate is so susceptible to acid that pearls will dissolve in vinegar.
Cultured freshwater pearls can also be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black.The finest pearls have a reflective luster, making them appear creamy white with an iridescent sheen that casts many colorful hues.
Black pearls—which are mostly cultured because they are so rare in nature—aren’t actually black but rather green, purple, blue or silver.
Pearls used to be found in many parts of the world, but natural pearling is now confined to the Persian Gulf waters near Bahrain. Australia owns one of the world’s last remaining pearl diving fleets and still harvests natural pearls from the Indian Ocean.
Today, most freshwater cultured pearls come from China. South Sea pearls are cultured along the northwestern coastline of Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
In many cultures, pearls symbolize purity and innocence, which is why it’s tradition for a bride to wear pearls on her wedding day. Besides being one of three birthstones for June, the pearl is also the birthstone for babies born under the signs of Gemini and Cancer and frequently gifted on 1st, 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries.