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. 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.
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. 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.
PEARL: 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
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: COLOR
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.
BUYER’S GUIDE: PEARLS
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: SIZE & 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. Because large pearls are so rare, the sweet spot is often found in smaller or medium-sized pearls.
CARE & CLEANING OF YOUR ALEXANDRITE & PEARL JEWELRY
Alexandrite is rated a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This makes alexandrite more susceptible to damage than rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Remember to bring your fine jewelry in at least twice a year for stone/setting checking and professional cleaning – not only is it a great excuse for us to see you and say hello, it will also keep your cherished pieces in tip-top shape! Alexandrite jewelry may be safely cleaned at home with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Click here for our step-by-step guide to cleaning jewelry at home.
Pearls benefit 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