Q & A with Moonstones

Do moonstones actually come from the moon?

Gem-quality cabochon-cut moonstones are so luminous that you might be tempted to say, “They’re out of this world!” But moonstones were formed here on earth and are found all over the planet. 

What are moonstones made of?

A member of the alkali feldspar sequence of minerals, a moonstone consists of alternating layers of orthoclase and albite feldspar. 

How are gem-quality moonstones cut?

On occasion, transparent moonstones will be faceted—for example, in a rose cut—but most moonstones are cut into cabochons with high domes to accentuate their luminosity. The cut may be oval, round, square, or sugarloaf-shaped. Some cabochon moonstones are also carved into highly detailed cameos or faces.

Where does the stone’s glow come from?

As light penetrates a cabochon-cut moonstone, some of that light scatters between the layers of feldspar material, producing a glow that seems to move beneath the stone’s surface as either the light source or the stone is moved. The gemological name for this glow is adularescence. Along with adularescence, some stones exhibit chatoyancy, also known as the cat’s eye effect. Rarer stones exhibit a four-rayed star, called asterism.

What colors do moonstones exhibit?

While moonstones range in appearance from semi-transparent to opaque and colorless to white, their background, or body colors can vary widely: yellow to brown, gray to almost black, blue to green. These colors are caused by various inclusions. For example, an iron oxide inclusion will cause a yellow, orange, or red-brown color.

What is the highest quality—most expensive—moonstone?

Even though moonstone is one of the earth’s most common minerals, high quality stones are rare. Quality consists of three key factors: the body color of the stone; the color of the adularescence; and the orientation of the adularescence. 

Today’s buyers favor the following standards for purchasing gem-quality stones. The body should be nearly colorless, free from any tint and visible inclusions (which could interfere with the adularescence). Likewise, the adularescence should be vivid blue, also called blue sheen. The sheen should be centered on top of the cabochon and easily be seen from a wide range of viewing angles. The cabochon cut itself should be uniform with a relatively high profile.

What should I consider when purchasing a moonstone?

A moonstone’s value is determined by the following: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Your personal taste and budget are just as important. Purchase your stone from a reputable jeweler. At llyn strong Fine Art Jewelry, llyn and her staff will talk with you about the merits of individual stones, can special order a stone for you, and discuss creating a custom setting to show off your new gem.

What settings are best for moonstones?

Moonstone has a Mohs hardness of 6.0 to 6.5. This means that moonstones are easily scratched and are prone to breaking. For that reason, pendants, necklaces and earrings are the safest ways to wear moonstones. If you choose to wear your moonstone in a ring, the stone should be set deeply into the setting, preferably with a halo of other gemstones to protect the outside edge. This arrangement, however, will not protect the top of the moonstone.

Moonstone and Alexandrite set in a yellow gold ring.
18k Yellow Gold Ring with Moonstone and Alexandrites (Sold)

How should I care for my moonstone jewelry?

It should go without saying that you should never wear your fine gemstone jewelry when doing any household cleaning tasks. Also, exposure to high heat may cause a moonstone to crack or break. Store your moonstone jewelry piece in a soft pouch or jewelry box compartment by itself to prevent scratches from rubbing against other jewelry pieces. 

Note: At home you can use warm soapy water and a cotton swab to clean moonstone jewelry; and be sure to wipe the piece dry with a soft cloth (don’t use your hair dryer!). Better yet, have the staff at llyn strong’s safely clean your fine jewelry.

For more information on moonstones as well as other fine quality gemstones, please visit llyn strong fine art jewelry at the store’s new location: 1322 East Washington Street, Suite C1, in Greenville. You can also call to make an appointment with llyn: 864-233-5900 or visit llynstrong.com.

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