A SERIES OF SUMMER STONES – JUNE’S BIRTHSTONE HISTORYJune is perhaps the wildest month regarding birthstones. June and December have the most alternatives out of any other month. Similarly, June and December have some of the most changes across history and cultures. If nothing else, June is an example that not every month has historical birthstones.
THE HISTORY OF JUNE’S BIRTHSTONES
As stated in our previous article on emerald as a birthstone, many cultures considered emerald to be the birthstone of June. Cultures that designated other stones to be birthstones for June include the Arabs, Poles, and Russians. More often than not, they claimed pearl, agate, and/or chalcedony to be the birthstone(s) of June.
Let’s start with pearl. Pearls were highly coveted and rare luxuries known since ancient times. However, they’re technically not stones and were not historically considered a birthstone. Thus, pearls are a recent development in the history of birthstones. It is also an American idea; pearl as a birthstone is only an alternative in Europe.
Moonstone is historically Europe’s birthstone for June. According to some scholars, the reason for this is due to “national pride.” Europe had many mines that churned out this gemstone. One of the oldest and most prestigious moonstone mines is found in St. Gotthard, Switzerland. In fact, it is this locale where moonstone gets its old name, “adularia,” as St. Gotthard was once known as Mount Adular. The sheen of moonstone is also known as adularescence.
The last alternative birthstone for June is alexandrite. This is the second most commercial inclusion in the birthstone list (the first is tanzanite). Alexandrite was not known (at least formally) to people prior to the early 19th century when alexandrite was discovered in the Ural Mountains. Rare and costly both then and today, there is no discernible reason for its introduction other than monetary gain.
With so many candidates fighting to be June’s prime birthstone, it’s no wonder that emerald never made it in the definitive lists of today. Even in pre-modern times when emerald was a potential June birthstone, agate, pearl, and chalcedony were fighting to earn the June spot. Alas, only pearl won out.
As you can see, June has the most tumultuous and varied birthstone history among the months. With a rotating count of five stones at different times and places, June’s birthstone has some of the most stones out of any month. But as we will see in winter, June is not unique.
REFERENCESFederman D. (1990) Moonstone. In: Modern Jeweler’s Consumer Guide to Colored Gemstones. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4684-6488-7_28
Kunz, George Frederick. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. United Kingdom, Lippincott, 1913.