NEW YORK — Moonstones, a kind of feldspar, have been admired, cherished and turned into jewelry for centuries. According to folklore, moonstones were made from beams of moonlight and it might be possible to catch a glimpse of Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon, inside them. Some claim that these stones have healing properties, can bring luck and wisdom, and might allow whoever holds it to see the future.
Even if moonstones fail to deliver on these lofty claims, jewelry that features the semi-precious stones remains both elegant and timeless. A simple moonstone bracelet or ring can enhance a casual outfit, while a more elaborate pendant necklace would be the perfect accent for an evening dress.
Having a translucent milky color that sometimes emits a blue sheen, moonstones seem to give off a glow as they reflect light from within. The phenomenon of the stone’s reflecting and scattering light evenly across its surface is known as adularescence. Moonstones share this trait with only a few other gems, including opals.
Moonstones became a favorite material for accenting gemstones in rings, brooches, necklaces and bracelets in the early 1900s. During the height of the Art Nouveau era, they were chosen as center stones for many jewelry pieces. Before he devoted himself to glass, Rene Lalique helped bring moonstone jewelry to the forefront. Several other notable jewelry designers, including Louis Comfort Tiffany and David Webb, have created jewelry that showcases moonstones. A circa-1960s David Webb brooch featuring an elongated center moonstone bordered by a halo of diamonds, sapphires and pearls, realized $24,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2020 at Bidhaus.
Moonstone jewelry is often set in platinum as the two materials feature similar coloration and thus pair well together. A moonstone intaglio and diamond ring in platinum sold for $11,248 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021 at Elmwood’s. The ring is notable because it is centered by a large, polished oval moonstone that has been carved with an image of Apollo, the Greek god of sun and light. Cameo pendants featuring a woman’s face, often in profile, were also carved into moonstone. The gemstones are relatively soft and can be shaped easily, but jewelers take extra care with them as they can be broken easily. Because they tend to be brittle, moonstones, once cut, were typically anchored in metals such as platinum or gold.
As with platinum, white gold is a preferred setting material for moonstone. A Tiffany & Co. antique moonstone and sapphire necklace sold for $24,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2021 at Fortuna Auction.
While jewelry pieces featuring one or more large moonstones are favored by collectors, highly polished oval cabochons are among the most popular forms in which moonstones are included in jewelry. Because they have a crystal structure, moonstones can be cut and faceted in the same manner that diamonds are faceted. A Tony Duquette 18K white gold bracelet set with opal, rock crystal and moonstones brought $22,500 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2021. It features 44 oval cabochon moonstones and more than 100 opal cabochons, giving it a mystical appearance.
The scarab was a powerful symbol to the ancient Egyptians, and, like the moonstone, it was imbued with properties of protection and luck. Uniting the scarab motif with moonstones seems especially magical. A fitting example is an Art Deco Egyptian Revival moonstone and diamond scarab brooch, made in France, which attained $9,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021 at Skinner.
Moonstone jewelry has won legions of adherents who revel in the gem’s ethereal beauty. Contemporary jewelry designers still love working with moonstones and building striking new pieces that showcase them, drawing in new generations of fans.