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Spotlight on antique birthstones – June

Spotlight on antique birthstones – June


June babies, like those born in December, are lucky enough to have the pick of three birthstones for their birth month. Here, we look at pearls, alexandrite and moonstone.

The original, and most traditional birthstone for June, the pearl was joined by moonstone in 1912 when the American National Association of Jewellers standardised birthstones and alexandrite in1952.

Pearl jewellery

Pearls are not stones mined from beneath the earth’s surface, like diamonds or rubies. They are in fact an organic gem formed from a grain of sand within a mollusc (oysters in saltwater and mussels in freshwater) – the mollusc secretes nacre (Mother of Pearl) to cover the irritant and over time, this becomes a pearl.  

Where are pearls found?

The majority of today’s freshwater pearls come from China, with saltwater pearls being found in the coastal areas of Japan, French Polynesia, and Australia.

The difference between natural pearls and cultivated pearls

Natural pearls form without human intervention inside a mollusc in the sea. Cultured pearls, however, are grown in pearl farms under strict human supervision, using a technique developed by Japanese Mikimoto Kokichi when demand began to outstrip supply in the late 19th century. Cultured pearls today account for the majority of pearls on the market. Seed pearls are natural pearls less than 2mm in diameter.

The meaning of pearls

Representing purity and innocence, pearl wedding jewellery is popular. Pearls are believed to give long life and wealth, while Asian civilisations believed they helped against indigestion and haemorrhages and Arab cultures believed they helped with poor eyesight and depression.   

Care of pearls

Pearls are extremely soft and should be looked after carefully to avoid the gems being scratched. Store separately from other jewellery, wrapped in soft fabric and avoid wearing them in water or when using cleaning products as they are porous. Always put pearl jewellery on after applying body lotions, perfume or hairspray as all of these can cause discolouration. Wipe clean with a soft cloth or a commercial pearl cleaning solution.

As well as being the birthstone for June, pearls are the traditional gift for a 30th wedding anniversary.

Moonstone jewellery

Moonstones are a feldspar mineral that have a milky white/blue iridescence known as adularescence. This gives them a glow that looks as though it is travelling across the stone’s surface when it is moved.

Where is moonstone found?

Found across the world in locations including Austria, Mexico and Australia, the world’s finest blue moonstones come from Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), where they were known as Ceylon opals.

Moonstone meaning

Associated with romance and mysticism, the moonstone was believed to be formed from a variety of sources, including frozen moonlight, and was used as a charm for fertility and love. The lunar connection has contributed to the moonstone having a reputation for being a calming influence, and some believe it can aid sleep.

Care of moonstone jewellery

With a score of 6.0-6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, moonstone is susceptible to scratches and should be stored separately from other, harder gemstones. To clean a moonstone, simply use a soft brush and a solution of soap in warm water, paying attention to the back of any settings where dust can gather.  Avoid ultrasonic or steam cleaners as excessive heat can cause moonstones to crack.


A fairly new gemstone, alexandrite was only discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the early 19th century and named after Czar Alexander II. Unusually, alexandrite can change in colour according to the light – in daylight (or fluorescent light), it will display a vivid green-blue hue, while in incandescent light it has an intense red to purple colour. A cat’s eye alexandrite has thin, elongated inclusions that run parallel to each other giving the effect of a cat’s eye.

Where is alexandrite found?

Since the original Ural Mountain deposits have been exhausted, alexandrite is now mined in Brazil, East Africa and Sri Lanka, but none compare in quality and clarity of colour to the early Russian stones.

Meaning of alexandrite

Symbolising prosperity and luck, alexandrite is believed to bridge the gap between the spiritual and the physical. It is said to bring joy and fortune, and to foster emotional balance.

Care of alexandrite

Scoring 8.5 on the Mohs scale, alexandrite is a tough gemstone ideal for daily wear, but it can crack when hit. Warm soapy water can be used to clean an alexandrite, as can ultrasonic and steam cleaners.

June birthstone jewellery from Hemswell Antique Centres

At Hemswell Antique Centres we have over 1300 items of antique and vintage jewellery and gold online, with thousands more pieces to view in person. Our extensive range of pearl jewellery includes timeless strings of pearls, as well as necklaces and earrings suitable for pearl bridal jewellery.

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