From The Vault
These mystical blue gems weave a magical spell for your customers
What is it about the elusive blue light moving around in the heart of
the moonstone that captivates us? Mystical and fascinating, this light doesn't
dazzle, yet its magic spell works on us like the moonlight it resembles.
Gemologically speaking, moonstone is two feldspars, orthoclase and albite,
intermingled in a single crystal. The alternating thin layers of feldspar
scatter light, producing adularescence, the blue moonlight effect that gives
this gem its name. Usually cut in cabochon to accentuate this effect, the
finest quality moonstones are semitransparent and flawless with a strong
Sri Lanka is the source for the finest moonstones, while fine to commercial
grades also come from Myanmar and India. Though moonstone has been used
in jewelry since antiquity, it doesn't have the same high profile as diamond
or pearl. Nevertheless, there have been periods when moonstone was highly
admired and sought after.
Moonstones became very popular in Europe and the U.S. around the turn of
the last century, appreciated by every echelon of society. Pastels were
in fashion then, and the delicate blue moonstone perfectly suited this taste.
The upper class, intrigued by novelty and rarity, wore carved moonstone
faces, cameos, cupids or doves set in delicate gold or platinum brooches
further enhanced with diamonds and pearls. Highly fashionable crescent brooches
were often set with moonstones to emphasize the natural simile. Worn in
the hair, these crescents became an allusion to the classical goddess Diana,
whose symbol was the moon.
Among the artful Aesthetics, cabochon gems set in handcrafted silver
jewels were preferred ornaments. This Arts and Crafts style frequently made
use of the soft, gentle moonstone.
The changeable nature of moonstone also made it a perfect accent for
the sensual and mysterious jewelry of the Art Nouveau movement. Prominent
jewelers of the time, including Tiffany, Carlo Giuliano, René Lalique
and Georg Jensen, incorporated exquisite moonstones into some of their most
In & Out of the Spotlight
Moonstones waned in popularity after 1920 when the staccato Art Deco style
overcame the dreamy illusions of earlier decades. Primary colors blazed
and strong contrasts ruled for the next few decades as moonstone retired
to the shadows. Explosive World War II blasted the Deco days away in 1939,
and fashion in the '40s was for gold jewelry, ending the reign of white
metal that had held the spotlight since 1900.
The postwar mood was optimistic. Jewelry reflected this in stylized natural
forms; flowers bloomed, exotic birds spread their wings and cornucopias
poured out their bounty, symbolizing a return of hope and prosperity. Moonstones
made a comeback in these graceful jewels as flower petals, leaves or berries.
They were often combined with small diamonds and rubies or with blue sapphires
in even sweeter harmony.
Like the orb it is named for, moonstone waxes and wanes in popularity.
We see the blue sheen glowing in jewelry for a time, then it slips away,
only to reappear again in the next generation. Today, moonstone is in full
favor, though its subtle charm will always make it a gemstone for the discriminating
few rather than the overwhelming majority.
Their soft adularescence makes these moonstone petals come
alive in a wildflower brooch of 14 karat gold set with small sapphires.
Circa 1950. Courtesy of Sandy De Maio Antique & Estate Jewelry, Bryn
Mawr and Manayunk, PA.
By Elise B. Misiorowski
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.