“Who comes with summer to this earth,
And owes to June her hour of birth,
With ring of agate on her hand
Can health, wealth, and long life command.”
June is one of only two months that has three birthstones associated with it, giving the lucky people born in June a choice of birthstones between pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. June’s birthstones range from creamy-coloured opalescent pearl and moonstone to the rare colour-changing alexandrite.
Pearl – June’s Traditional Birthstone
As you may know, Pearl is not actually a stone at all, but it is seen as one of the most traditional items featured in jewellery. For centuries it has been used as a precious stone and has had meanings from mythological and more. Many different cultures have used this stone for jewellery because of its natural beauty and refined look.
The unique feature of the pearl is that it is the only gem to be formed by a living creature, no other gem can make that claim. Molluscs produce pearls by depositing layers of calcium carbonate around microscopic irritants that get lodged in their shells – not usually a grain of sand, as commonly believed. This unique formation is what gives pearls the ability to come in many different colours, shapes and sizes, and also gives them their natural lustre. The iridescent “nacreous” pearls do not require any polishing whatsoever (which probably makes them popular with jewellers!)
Natural pearls usually only occur in creamy colours. Cultured freshwater pearls can also be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, or black. Black pearls—which are mostly cultured because they are so rare in nature—aren’t actually black but rather green, purple, blue, or silver.
The name “pearl” comes from the Old French perle, from the Latin perna meaning “leg.” This is believed to be a reference to the leg-of-mutton shape of an open mollusc shell. Because perfectly round, smooth natural pearls are so uncommon, the word “pearl” can refer to anything rare and valuable. In Cockney rhyming slang, “ocean pearl” was used to refer to a “girl” – usually one as pretty and rare as a pearl!
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.
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. This means that they need to be cared for, and are not usually suitable for everyday wear.
Besides being one of three birthstones for June, the pearl is also frequently gifted on 1st, 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries.
Alexandrite – June’s Colour-Changing Birthstone
A relatively modern gemstone, alexandrite was discovered in Russian emerald mines located in the Ural Mountains. Legends claim that it was discovered in 1834 on the same day that future Russian Czar Alexander II came of age, hence the name honouring him. Because this unique gemstone changed colours from green to red - the national colours of Russia - alexandrite became Imperial Russia’s official gemstone.
Often described as “emerald by day, ruby by night,” alexandrite is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that changes colour from blueish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light. This happens because of the "spectrum of colour" that incandescent light (such as from light bulbs) shows versus others types of light, and it is absorbed and reflected differently in Alexandrite.
This chameleon-like behaviour is the result of its uncommon chemical composition - which includes traces of chromium, the same colouring agent found in May’s birthstone emerald. The likelihood of these elements combining under the right conditions is very low, making alexandrite one of the rarest, costliest gemstones.
The alexandrite mined from Russia’s famed deposits set the quality standard for this stone. Today, most alexandrite comes from Sri Lanka, Brazil, and East Africa—generally paling in comparison to the vivid colours of Russian gemstones. With a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, alexandrite is softer than sapphire and harder than garnet - the other gemstones that can change colour. However, due to its scarcity, alexandrite is more valuable than most gemstones, even rubies and diamonds.
Associated with concentration and learning, alexandrite is believed to strengthen intuition, aid creativity and inspire imagination - bringing good omens to anyone who wears it, whether they were born in June or not!
Moonstone – June’s Modern Birthstone
June’s third and final birthstone, moonstone, was named by the Roman natural historian Pliny, who wrote that moonstone’s shimmery appearance shifted with the phases of the moon.
Moonstone is the white variety of labradorite; both gems that belong to the feldspar family. It is hugely popular due to its unique glisten and sheen, not unlike an opal or pearl, and it has been also been steeped in legend and beliefs about its healing powers. Around the world, moonstone has been believed to be formed from moon drops or moonbeams and considered sacred because of this.
The most common moonstone comes from the mineral adularia, named for an early mining site near Mount Adular in Switzerland that supplied this gemstone. This site also birthed the term adularescence, which refers to the stone’s milky glow, like moonlight floating on water. Moonstone is made up of microscopic layers that scatter light to cause this billowy effect. Thinner layers produce a blueish sheen and thicker layers look white.
Moonstone comes in a range of colours from yellow, grey, green, blue, peach, and pink. The finest classical moonstones – transparent with a blue shimmer – come from Sri Lanka. Since these sources of high-quality blue moonstones have essentially been mined out, prices have risen sharply.
Moonstones are also found in India, Australia, Myanmar, Madagascar, and the United States. Indian gemstones – which have hues of brown, green, or orange – are more abundant and affordably priced than their classical blue counterparts.
Like pearls, this beautiful gemstone’s weakness is its relatively low hardness of 6 on the Mohs scale, making it prone to stress cracking and cleaving. Care is required with moonstone jewellery like rings or bracelets; brooches and pendants are preferred and should not be worn constantly.
Whether you believe this beautiful gemstone can improve your health and well-being or you just like the incredible colour and individuality; moonstone jewellery will not disappoint, whether it’s June, July, August or any month of the year.