The Gemstone Moonstone
What Is Moonstone?
Moonstone is the popular name used for gem-quality feldspar that exhibits the phenomenon of adularescence. Adularescence is a soft glow of light that appears to float just below the surface of a polished gemstone, usually a cabochon. The name “moonstone” was given because the floating light resembles the glow of the moon through a thin cloud cover.
The glow of moonstone is dynamic and appears to move within the stone when one of three things occurs: 1) the source of illumination moves, 2) the angle of observation is changed, or, 3) the gemstone is moved under the light. This beautiful and intriguing adularescence is what makes moonstone the most popular gemstone of the feldspar group.
Geologic and Geographic Origin
Sri Lanka is the world’s most important source of fine-quality moonstone. Moonstone is also produced in significant quantities in Brazil, Myanmar and India. Small amounts are found in many other countries around the world.
Moon Stone History
Moonstone is best known for its pearly sheen, or schiller effect, where light reflects off of the two types of feldspar that make this stone, orthoclase and albite. These two minerals grow together in alternating layers, and a phenomena named adularescence happens whenever light hits this play of orthoclase and albite. No matter what term you use to describe this play of light across moonstone, it is certainly beautiful.
Moonstone has a rich history and abundant folklore. Its story begins in ancient Rome, where it was believed moonstone was formed from solidified beams of moonlight. They also held that the Roman goddess Diana, goddess of the moon, could be seen within the stone, and that it would bestow love, wisdom and good fortune upon those who possessed it. They believed it would help keep the mind clear, so that its owner could make the smartest and wisest choices in life, and even enhance the wearer’s ability for second-sight or prophecy. Moonstone was a most popular jewelry choice, being such a magical looking stone, and having such benefits for its wearer.
In India, Moonstone was a sacred stone. Its powers as a love stone made it useful as a traditional wedding gift, and was thought to be instrumental in reconciling estranged lovers. There was a belief in India and in Europe that two people wearing moonstone on the full moon would fall passionately in love. The moonstone’s history in India includes the belief that since the beginning of time, a moonstone had been set into the forehead of India’s moon god, Chandra. In fact, his full name was Chandra Shekara, which means “Person who wears the moon.” The stone on Chandra’s forehead was said to grow dimmer or become more bright with the waning and waxing of the moon (and the waxing and waning of Chandra’s power), thus giving the gem the name “moon stone.”
Moonstone also has a long history as a “Traveler’s Stone.” When worn as an amulet, moonstone was said to protect travelers, especially at night, and especially when the moon is shining. Ancient mariners believed it would protect them when traveling over water. Some suggest keeping a moonstone in a pocket, or otherwise stashed in your car or aboard your usual mode of transport for extra protection when abroad at night.
In more recent history, during the Art Nouveau period (1890-1910), the moonstone gained a resurgence in popularity. The French master goldsmith Rene Lalique led the way creating stunning pieces of jewelry featuring the moonstone. Though now most of Lalique’s jewelry is in museums, plenty of jewelers all over the US and Europe were beginning to work with moonstone again. Such jeweled creations no doubt benefitted from beliefs such as giving your lover a moonstone necklace during the full moon would create endless passion for the loving couple.
Throughout the ages, moonstone has been synonymous with the moon, magic, love, good fortune, and protection. One myth says that blue moonstones are washed up by the ocean tides every twenty-one years, and another claims that moonstone will lose its pretty shine and sheen if the owner of the stone keeps a lot of anger pent up inside. Later, during the Middle Ages, moonstone was used for scrying the future.