Stones, Pronunciations, & Name Histories

There are dozens and dozens of stones. Many have easy to pronounce names, but some have very unusual names that may not be pronounced like you think.

What are These Funny Symbols?

We often put the pronunciation of a stone on our blogs. However, you will notice that we often use symbols like ə, ɹ, ɛ, ʊ, ʁ, and more. These are typically mixed in with more easily identifiable symbols, like y, b, p, n, and so on. But, what do these mean?

This is because we use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In short, it is phonetic notation and permits a standard approximation and representation for the sounds and pronunciations of speech without being specific to a single language or culture. We won't get into the nuances of the system, but if it sounds complicated, the short version is that it is a common standard for simply how we speak.

We cannot go over how the whole list of sounds, as there are a lot. However, here is a chart provided in the link below.

https://www.internationalphoneticalphabet.org/ipa-sounds/ipa-chart-with-sounds/

For the most part, the letters sound exactly how you think. It may seem confusing at first, but it becomes quick to understand and is plainly better than the other phonetic key we use, which is really just a less proper approximation. When in doubt, trust the IPA version more. For the sake of simplicity, we are excluding stresses and long-forms of certain vowels.

Abalone

Abalone pronunciation: /æbəloʊni/

Though not technically a gemstone, we do have it for sale. Abalone comes from Spanish, abulon, which comes from the Rumsen word aluan.

Agate

Agate Pronunciation: /æɡət/

Agate is derived from the Achates River where the stone was found in Sicily.

Image of Hands Holding Agate Stones | Crystal Gemstone Shop

Ajoite

Ajoite Pronunciation: /ɑhoʊaɪt/ (ahoh-ite)

Ajoite is derived from its locale in Ajo, Arizona.

Amethyst

Amethyst Pronunciation: /æməθɪst/

You may be familiar with amethyst's etymology, as it is a common story by now. If you are not, then it's a funny one. Amethyst's name originates from Greek, meaning "not drunk" as the stone was believed to ward off drunkenness.

Apophyllite

Apophyllite Pronunciation: /əpɑfɪlaɪt/, /əpɑfəlaɪt/ (uh-pah-fuh-lite)

Comes from Greek, apo and phyllos, meaning "away" and "leaf" respectively.

Aragonite

Aragonite Pronunciation: /ɛɹəɡɑnaɪt/ (er-uh-gahn-ite)

Named after Aragon, Spain.

Arfvedsonite

Arfvedsonite Pronunciation /ɑɹvɛdsənaɪt/ (ar-ved-son-ite)

Named after Johan August Arfwedson.

Azurite

Azurite Pronunciation: /æʒəɹaɪt/ (a-zhur-ite)

Derived from French azur or azeure; ultimately from Arabic or Persian lazaward and lazhuward

Bismuth

Bismuth Pronunciation: /bɪzməθ/

Precise origin of this word is unclear. Supposedly comes from German wismut. Prior to this, the word's origin gets murky, with theories claiming it could be from Latin, Arabic, or Greek.

Carnelian

Carnelian Pronunciation: /kɑɹniljən/

A corruption of cornelian. Regardless, it is derived from French corneline, which referred to the cornelian cherry due to the similar color. Unsurprisingly, the French corneline is from Latin cornus, which refers to the same cornelian cherry. 

Charoite

Charoite Pronunciation: /'t͡ɕar.o.aɪt/. If you speak English, you will probably pronounce it like /t͡ʃar.o.aɪt/.(Light char-o-ite). Pronounced differently in Slavic languages.

The etymology is disputed. Some claim it comes from Chara, or more precisely, the Chara River, located in the Sakha Republic, Russia. While other theories have been put forth, this still remains as the most plausible until more research is done.

Chiastolite

Chiastolite Pronunciation: /kaɪ.æst.əlaɪt/, less commonly starts with /çi-/ or /xi-/. (Kai-ast-uh-lite-

If you've seen this stone before and know your Greek, the etymology is pretty obvious. Due to the 'X' pattern, the stone's name ultimately derives from the letter chi (/kaɪ/), which looks like Χ or χ.

Chrysolite

Chrysolite Pronunciation: /kɹɪsəlaɪt/

Ultimately derived from Latin and Greek chryso, which means "golden" or "yellow", and lythos which means "stone." The word was originally far more ambiguous and applied to various green or yellow stones. Though there is still some uncertainty as to what stone it refers to today, the common perception is that it can be applied to any olivine.

Cinnabar

Cinnabar Pronunciation: /sɪnəbɑɹaɪt/. (sin-uh-bar-ite)

Though it is ultimately derived from Greek and Latin, the origin of kinnabari as used by Theophrastus is unknown, but some believe it may be derived from Arabic or Persian.

Image of Cinnabarite in Hand | Crystal Gemstone Shop

Dumortierite

Dumortierite Pronunciation: /dumɔrtiəɹaɪt/ (doo-mohr-tier-ite)

This stone is named after Eugene Dumortier.

Emerald

Emerald Pronunciation: /ɛməɹəld/

Emerald is closely derived from French, old French, but French nonetheless. It meant "Emerald." However, the French esmeraude was derived from Latin, smaragdus, which was derived from Greek, smaragdos

Epidote

Epidote Pronunciation: /ɛpɪdəʊt/

While borrowed from French, it is ultimately from Greek epidosis.

Eudialyte

Eudialyte Pronunciation: /judaɪəlaɪt/

This stone's name is ultimately derived from Greek eudialytos referring to its highly soluble nature.

Fuchsite

Fuchsite Pronunciation: /fjuːksaɪt/ (fewks-ite)

Fuchsite is named after Johann Fuchs. 

Hubnerite

Hubnerite Pronunciation: /hybnəraɪt/ (hewb-ner-ite)

Hubnerite is named after Friedrich Hübner.

Kunzite

Kunzite Pronunciation: /kʊntsaɪt/

Named after George Frederick Kunz, a famous mineralogist.

Kyanite

Kyanite Pronunciation: /kaɪənaɪt/

Derived from Greek kyanos, which can refer to blue. If you are familiar with ancient civilizations, it is true that blue was a nebulous concept. But for the sake of simplicity, we will say it refers to blue.

Ilvaite

Ilvaite Pronunciation: /ilvə.aɪt/ (il-vite)

Named after the island Elba.

Iolite

Iolite Pronunciation: /aɪəlaɪt/ 

From Greek ion meaning "violet".

Image of Hand Holding Iolite | Crystal Gemstone Shop

Labradorite

Labradorite Pronunciation: /læbrədɔraɪt/

Named after its locale in Labrador, Canada. Though it has been mined in other locations, this is ultimately where it is derived.

Larvikite

Larvikite Pronunication: /laɹvik-aɪt/ (lar-veek-ite), or, /laɹvɪk-aɪt/ (lar-vick-ite)

Named after its locale in Larvik, Norway.

Malachite

Malachite Pronunciation: /mæləkaɪt/

As with many others on this list, the name comes from French, and then from Latin, and then Greek, malachitis

Mookaite

Mookaite Pronunication: /muːkaɪt/ (moo-kite)

A common name for a variety of radiolite. Named after Mooka Station, Australia. 

Nuummite

Nuummite is named after Nuuk, Greenland.

Nuummite Pronunciation: /nuːmaɪt/ (noo-might)

Peridot

The pronunciation of peridot is often a subject of debate among gem collectors and enthusiasts. Why? Well, peridot pronunciation typically falls in two camps: those who prefer to pronounce it like /pɛɹɪdoʊ/ (per-ih-doh) and those who pronounce it like /pɛɹɪdɑt/ (per-ih-dot). 

This comes from the name's origin. As you might guess, the term entered the English dictionary from French. In French, the 't' is not pronounced.

So, which is correct? Well, the answer is simply: both. Both pronunciations see such widespread use, that there is no definitive right way. Though, if we are being entirely technical, /peʁido/ would be more correct since it's from French.

With all that out of the way, where does Peridot come from? Well, we don't entirely know. There are theories, such as Latin, peridotus. But that isn't certain. 

Prehnite

Prehnite pronunciation /preɪnaɪt/, also commonly /prɛn-/

Rhodonite

Rhodonite Pronunciation: /roʊdənaɪt/

Selenite

Selenite Pronunciation: /sɪlənaɪt/ or /selenaɪt/.

This is another commonly known one. Selenite comes from Greek, selene, meaning "moon."

Turquoise

Like with Peridot, we take Turquoise from French. With less ambiguity in French, it is called la pierre turquoise, the Turkish stone.

Turquoise Pronunciation: /tɜrkɔɪz/ (tur-koyz)

French Turquoise Pronunciation: /tyʁkwaz/

Quartz

Quartz Pronunciation: /kwɔɹts/, /kwɔɹtz/

Despite being one of the most common minerals and having dozens of varieties, the etymology for quartz is actually unknown. It derives from quarz, which may be derived from Slavic, such as Czech or Polish. Czech would be a possibility if you consider the Kingdom of Bohemia under the Holy Roman Empire, and Germanic influence and vice versa would not be uncommon. And Poland was a significant power that bordered the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Bohemia. Perhaps the term transferred that way.

Image of Quartz Stones | Crystal Gemstone Shop

However, this is just a theory, as many of the earliest instances of the word appear in reference to Saxons who supposedly referred to it as "Querkluftertz." And Saxony did have prominent locations for mining quartz. "Querkluftertz" would have naturally been shortened to "Quartz" or "Quarz" (in German) over a long period of time. To further this point, Georgius Agricola, the "Father of Mineralogy" in his De Re Metallica uses multiple terms, stating "Quarzum ("which Latins call silex")...Quertz oder kiselstein."

This would suggest a more Germanic origin, which is possible, and while Agricola is beyond influential, he was not the first to have a "quartz" like name for the mineral. Furthermore, Agricola had spent a considerable amount of time in Bohemia, and if a Slavic origin is to be believed, it is possible heard the term there.

Forbes, among others, considers the possibility that it comes from Middle High German "querch," another word for "dwarf." This could have been in reference to some mythology, as dwarfs are commonly known as being a mountainous craftspeople in Germanic folklore. Ultimately, it's unknown.

The Wrap Up

As you can see, there is much that people know about stones, but sometimes, something as simple as a name can have a relatively unknown past. We could not get every single stone, but we added a decent mix of common stones and lesser-known stones. We could update this list in the future, so stay tuned!

Sources

De Re Metallica. Georgius Agricola.

On the origin of the name 'quartz'. By S. I. TOMKEIEFF, M.Sc., F.G.S.

https://lrc.la.utexas.edu/lex/master/0436

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidbressan/2017/01/23/the-origin-of-geological-terms-quartz/?sh=7cff0f2a5f89 

https://www.mindat.org/min-3337.html

https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=peridot

https://www.mindat.org/min-27597.html

https://www.etymonline.com/word/emerald#:~:text=emerald%20(n.),Arabic%20barq%20%22lightning%22).

https://www.etymonline.com/word/quartz

https://www.etymonline.com/word/abalone#:~:text=type%20of%20large%20mollusk%20found,pearl%20in%20its%20large%20shells%20

https://www.mindat.org/min-283.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/azure

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bismuth

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carnelian.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chrysolite

https://www.mindat.org/min-1052.html.

https://www.mindat.org/min-1329.html

https://www.mindat.org/min-1389.html

https://www.mindat.org/min-1420.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eudialyte

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fuchsite

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ilvaite

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iolite

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