Love It To The Moon And Back
Moonstones, characterized by a distinctive soft glow of light, are formed by two varieties of the mineral feldspar—orthoclase and albite—intermingled during formation deep inside the earth. As the mineral cooled, the two separated out into flat, alternating stacked layers. The refraction and scattering of light between the layers give the gem its distinctive soft glow, called adularescence. This same characteristic also sometimes gives moonstone a star pattern or a cat’s eye effect, called chatoyancy. To bring out their special light characteristics, moonstones are cut cabochon style. No matter what shape the finished stone, it will almost always have a smooth domed top. On rare occasion, a moonstone may be carved into a cameo or a face, but faceting is not used with this gem.
Moonstone was given its name by Pliny The Elder, who believed the stone changed its appearance with the phases of the moon. While technically not a color-change gemstone like alexandrite, the two feldspars that make up moonstone each react differently to light, giving the gem a different appearance as the surrounding light changes.
The classic moonstone has a pearly translucent bluish hue, and has been used in jewelry since ancient times. Today it’s prized simply for its beauty and not because of any particular design or cultural movement.
The finest translucent bluish moonstones typically come from Sri Lanka. The best specimens display a depth of color that appears almost three-dimensional when the stone is moved back and forth, like a little secret between the stone and its owner.
Although bluish moonstones also are found in the USA, Europe, Brazil, Australia, Myanmar and Madagascar, very fine quality ones are getting extremely rare.
Moonstones come in a variety of colors, not just blue. They can be gray, peach, green, brown, orange, red, and even black, but all with the signature adularescence. Whatever the color, a moonstone’s value comes from the intensity of its color and the size and transparency of the stone. So while the classic bluish hue is the most prized, some of the newer colors have become quite sought after and can be a more affordable alternative.
Much mystique surrounds the moonstone. For example, in Hindu mythology, it’s believed that moonstone is made of solidified moonbeams. No wonder, then, that in India it’s believed to bring good dreams at night. In Arabic countries, it’s a symbol of fertility. And in the United States, it’s the official state gemstone of Florida, to commemorate—what else—the moon landings that took off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.