By: Diane Nicole Go, GIA Graduate Gemologist
An ethereal gemstone reminiscent of the delicate beams of moonlight passing over clouds… that can only be a moonstone.
Moonstone is one of the most well-known gems, prized by many for its shimmering glow—a phenomenon known as adularescence. Adularescence is that billowing light across the gem’s surface, which gives it a glowing appearance. This misty light effect rolls across the gem when you tilt it back and forth.
Along with Pearl and Alexandrite, this gentle gem is the birthstone for June. Whether it is your birthstone, or if you’re looking for beautiful and unique gemstone, a moonstone is your best bet.
Let’s see what makes this gem so special.
Adularescent moonstone used to be called “adularia”— taken from Mt. Adular, the old name of a mountain in Switzerland (now known as St. Gotthard), which was one of the first sources of fine-quality moonstone.
Moonstone gets its name from its dreamy, moon-like appearance. Hindu mythology even says that it is made of solidified moonbeams. Other cultures associate this gem with moonlight not only because of its color, but also because of its adularescent glow.
A moonstone is believed to be a harbinger of good luck. It is even said that if you hold a moonstone in your mouth during a full moon, you would be able to see the future.
Aside from its mythical properties, Moonstone was used in the romantic Art Nouveau era because of its delicate, feminine appearance. It was commonly used with silver to complement its pale hues. During the 1960s, moonstone was widely used in the “flower child” movement and was revived in the 1990s New Age movement.
To this day, Moonstone can be found in both fine jewelry, handcrafted silver pieces, or even as bead bracelets and pendants for strong believers in its healing and meditative properties.
Moonstone is one of the familiar gems that belong to the feldspar group. Feldspar is one of the most widespread minerals in the earth’s crust, along with silicates. Gemstones classified under the felspar group are often diverse (and sometimes even come with unique attributes—phenomenon—like moonstone!)
Adularescence is caused by an interplay of light with the thin, flat layers of a moonstone. The light then scatters in many directions, giving the moonstone an ethereal glow. This can be viewed better when you tilt the stone so that the light rolls across the gem.
There are two kinds of moonstones—each coming from a different group of feldspar. The more familiar one with the white or blue sheen is categorized as Orthoclase, while the one with a rainbow sheen is a variety of Labradorite. The latter, which can be found in Canada and Madagascar, is more commonly known in the trade as “Rainbow Moonstone”.
Moonstone is often cut as a cabochon or beads to emphasize its adularescence. Some moonstones can even be carved into cameos, a cut featuring the silhouette of a face. Moonstones carved in this shape are called “man-in-the-moon”, a play on the Moonstone’s name.
Aside from colorless, moonstone can come in gray, brown, yellow, green or pink. The more well-known ones are colorless, but lately, orange to yellow, or peach moonstones have also become popular.
Moonstone, by its very name, channels the moon. This gentle force plays a strong part in the way our emotions work and provides a gentle stability should you feel lost or unstable. Moonstone is believed to help enhance your intuition by allowing you to tap into your emotional side through meditation and introspection. It has strong ties to the Heart Chakra, making it a stone for all kinds of love—familial, romantic, and even self-love. It is a fertility crystal that nurtures and stimulates desires.
Known as a traveler’s stone, Moonstone is a protective charm for those who travel at night or at sea, where the moon shines. It can be worn or kept in the car to help you find peace in stressful situations on the road.
Moonstone also works for self-expression, allowing artists and performers to express themselves with confidence, and to accept themselves for all that they are—flaws and all.
Crystal Vaults (https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/moonstone)
Energy Muse (https://www.energymuse.com/moonstone-meaning)
CARE AND CLEANING
Moonstone is a delicate stone, which is why special care is needed to maintain it.
In the Moh’s scale, Moonstone ranks at 6 to 6.5. It has poor toughness—mainly because of its two cleavage directions, making it susceptible to breaks and chips when bumped against something. Therefore, jewelers often fashion moonstone into pendants, earrings and brooches rather than rings and bracelets, since those are more likely to receive knocks and bumps.
Aside from its poor toughness, Moonstone is also sensitive to high head and sudden temperature changes. This can cause it to break, which is irreparable. Moonstone can also be harmed when exposed to solvents, which is why using warm, soapy water and a toothbrush is the best way to clean it. Never use the ultrasonic or steam cleaners on your moonstone jewelry.
Always store your moonstone pieces separately so that your other jewelry won’t scratch it.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MOONSTONE
The adularescence of a moonstone is the main focus when it comes to its quality. The stronger the sheen, the higher the value. This means that the color of the stone itself (without considering the phenomenon itself) is important. Factors like transparency are also considered, since a nearly opaque stone cannot show adularescence. Thus, a colorless, nearly transparent to transparent stone with no distinct patterns a vivid blue adularescence (blue sheen) is the finest-quality moonstone. Think glass with an electric blue shimmer.
The adularescence must also be seen in different sides of the stone. If it can only be seen on one side, its value drops.
The “cleaner” the stone, the higher the value, since these inclusions can affect the adularescence of the stone. You may see some tiny tension cracks called centipedes, which is perfectly normal. They are called such because they look like the multi-legged insect—thin and long.
Moonstones are often cut into oval cabochons, but some cutters cut them in interesting shapes like the tapered sugarloaf, an angular cabochon with a square base. In order to assess the quality of a moonstone based on its cut, the stone must be proportional, and it shouldn’t be too flat. Flat cabochons don’t display the sheen well, which lower its value.
Moonstone can come in many sizes, and while this does not strongly affect its value, fine-quality material in larger sizes is becoming scarce. Large moonstones with a strong adularescence and lovely color are both rare and expensive.
Moonstone is a dreamy and delicate piece that you can use for a feminine look. It does not overpower—rather, it is a neutral gem that complements any look, and shines at its best when mounted in silver or white gold.