June is one of only two months in the year where there are two exceptional choices for a birthstone: Alexandrite or Pearl. Did you know Alexandrite was added as a June birthstone relatively recently? It made the official jump to birthstone in 1952, nearly 100 years after it was first discovered.
ALEXANDRITE: EMERALD BY DAY, RUBY BY NIGHT
Alexandrite, along with sapphire and garnet, is a chameleon in the world of precious gemstones. Discovered in Russian emerald mines in the 19th century, Alexandrite is unique in that it changes color from green to red, depending upon the surrounding light source. A member of the chrysoberyl mineral family, it appears bluish green in daylight and purplish red under incandescent light.
Alexandrite gemstones contain traces of chromium, the same coloring agent found in emeralds. Like magical, mystical emeralds (which were also created via the most unlikely of circumstances), Alexandrite is quite rare and often more valuable than either rubies or diamonds.
WHERE IS ALEXANDRITE FOUND?
The best gem quality Alexandrite is still found in Russia. Other noteworthy gems are mined in Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa.
ALEXANDRITE MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
Believed to strengthen intuition and creativity, Alexandrite is considered to aid concentration as well as bring good omens to anyone who wears them.
PEARL: LUSTER SHAPED BY NATURE
Pearls are the only precious gems created by living creatures (oysters and mussels). Layers of calcium carbonate are deposited around microscopic irritants to form pearls, not grains of sand as is commonly believed. There are only two groups of bivalve mollusks, specifically salt water pearl oysters and fresh water pearl mussels, that use mother-of-pearl to create highly valued iridescent “nacreous” pearls used in jewelry. Pearls also do not require polishing to reveal their natural luster.
The rarest and most expensive pearls, aka ‘natural pearls’, are made in the wild. Most pearls sold today are cultured or farmed by implanting a grafted piece of shell or a round bead into pearl oysters or pearl mussels.
WHERE ARE PEARLS FOUND?
Pearls are classified into four primary categories: Akoya (classic white, round pearls from Japan), Tahitian (dark, exotic specimens from French Polynesia), Freshwater (affordable, fashion-forward pearls cultured in fresh water and available in a variety of shapes and colors) and South Seas (the Rolls Royce of pearls…generally the largest salt water pearls in terms of size and in luminous shades from white to gold).
Pearls are one of few gems not measured in carats. They are graded and characterized by size (in millimeters) and by reflective luster. The most prized pearls appear creamy white with an iridescent sheen casting many colorful hues. Cultured fresh water pearls may be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black; interestingly, “black” Tahitian pearls are not actually black but instead are deep shades of silver, green, blue or purple.
PEARLS: MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
In many cultures, pearls symbolize purity and innocence, thus many brides choose to wear pearls on their wedding day. Pearls are also traditionally given as a 30th wedding anniversary gift.
BUYER’S GUIDE: ALEXANDRITE
Color/color change is the most important factor when determining Alexandrite’s quality and value. The brighter the colors and the more dramatic the change from bluish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light, the more valuable the gem.
Higher clarity may weaken Alexandrite’s color change, so color is much more important than clarity in this case.
Like most precious gemstones, the per carat price of fine quality Alexandrite escalates rapidly as you go up in carat weight. Top-quality Russian Alexandrite has sold for as much as $10,000 for one carat.
BUYER’S GUIDE: PEARLS
SIZE AND COLOR
Pearls generally range in size from 3mm to 14mm (South Sea pearls have even been found at 18mm!). 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 difficult—and more expensive. Considering the lengthy amount of time to locate enough to make a necklace, a matched strand of natural pearls may sell for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars.
Because large pearls are so rare, the sweet spot is often found in smaller or medium-sized pearls. A necklace of lustrous pearls is a timeless classic, found in the jewelry boxes of the world’s most fashionable and fashion-conscious women. This is a gemstone that benefits from contact with human skin, too; although sunscreens, hairsprays, perfumes and other substances can be harmful to pearls. The rule for pearls is “last thing to put on, first thing to take off”. Careful cleaning with a soft, damp cloth is essential to prevent build-up that may damage the luster; please let us know if your pearls are in need of checking or restringing.
Sources: American Gem Society and Pearl Paradise