It has been quite a lunar month. The power and mysticism of the heavenly bodies are even making news headlines recently! What better month to look at the allure of the moonstone, one of my favourite gemstones; so full of mystery, light, and even the man in the moon.
Moonstone is a type of feldspar. It is a translucent clear-coloured stone, its unique properties come from the internal reflections of light which give the impression that it is emanating light. A bluish glow is often valued in the stone, and its unusual light qualities are often referred to as adularescence or opalescence. It is a birthstone for June and I do so fancy that association with the enigmatic Gemini.
In the Ancient world it was believed that the moonstone was in fact a piece of the moon that had fallen onto this earthly realm. So, certainly there is something about this simple stone that captures the imagination. It has also inspired stories of creation, myth and moralising. Well, you know humans don’t you? Always having to make patterns out of everything, the spots on the moon and the shapes of the waxing and waning of la luna itself! Do you know even the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill can be linked back to the myths of the moon?¹ But though the anthropomorphisation of our beloved moon ranges from a claret drinking roustabout, a faggot-gathering thief & sabbath breaker, kids & cranky old men, it is has always too been the symbol of love. And it was in this guise that the stone became so popular in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century.
The moon is out to-night, love,
Meet me with a smile,
I’ve something sweet to tell you,
Sitting on the stile,
Kiss me when you meet me,
Kitty of the glen;
And when I go to leave you,
I’ll give it back again.²
You will find the moonstone most commonly in cabochon form. It is en cabochon that you will see its inner glow displayed to its optimum, the magical qualities of light. Therefore, a single moonstone was often featured on a simple goldband, a string of them in bracelets or necklaces. Sometimes, and very tellingly, it will be cut en cabochon in the shape of a heart. The perfect lover’s gift!
Bell writes in her book Collecting Victorian Jewelry that the Ladies’ Home Journal for October 1891 described two pieces of jewelry set with moonstones:
A bewitching little moonstone cherub flying with outstretched wings through a garland of gold leaves, intermingled with diamonds and sapphires, forms an exceedingly pretty brooch design that has been imported from Paris.
A carved moonstone in the midst of diamonds set to stimulate stars, for the ornamentation of plain gold concave cuff links, is in Vogue.
“Because the stone is a symbol of the moon, it had romantic associations. Like the moon, it symbolized love, romance, and passion. Many felt that it had powers of persuasion in these areas. Come Victorians believed that if you gave someone a piece of jewelry containing a moonstone, you would then have control of the wearer’s heart. Others believed that if you put a moonstone under your tongue on the night of a full moon, you would be able to tell the future. Consequently, the moonstone was a favorite stone to give a sweetheart. ” P. 212 Bell. The moonstone was also used beautifully by artisans working in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts style.
There is also some fascinating British folklore that the moon could assist in revealing the identity of future husbands: “Hone tells us that in Berkshire, “at the first appearance of a new moon, maidens go into the fields, and, while they look at it, say: –
New moon, new moon, I hail thee!
By all the virture in thy body.
Grant this night hat I may see
He who my true love is to be.”³
And let us not forget one of the most desired forms of the moonstone in jewellery, that of the Man in the Moon. The cheery face of a beaming man in the moon is highly sought after by collectors, sometimes mounted with diamonds to refer back to the sparkling night sky from whence inspiration was drawn. But do be careful as he can appear in more modern pieces and possibly made from glass and not the delicious moonstone that we revere so much.
The moon is out to-night love,
Floating thro’ the sky,
Little stars are laughing,
As she passes by;
All the little songsters
Sing a merry tune,
Happy as they an be,
Singing to the moon,
Clouds with silver lining,
Waiting in the sky,
Waiting for to pass them,
Kitty, so am I,
For I’ve come to meet you,
With a happy smile,
To tell you how I love you,
Sitting on the stile.²
Bell, C. Jeanenne, ‘Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840-1950’, KP FW Media, Iola, USA, 2008.
Bell, C. Jeanenne, ‘Collecting Victorian Jewelry’, KP FW Media, Iola, USA, 2004.
Harley, Rev. Timothy, ‘Moon Lore’, London, 1885.
Thanks to Miss April for sourcing quotes from her ever growing collection of literary quotes.
¹In Swedish folklore 2 children, Hjuki/Juki/Jack & Bil/Jill, were taken to the moon with their pole & bucket of water where they could be seen from the earth. The fall of Jack, and the subsequent fall of Jill, simply represent the vanishing of one moon spot after another, as the moon wanes. Harley, p25.
²A verse from the poem ‘The Moon is out to-night Love or, Sweet Kitty of the Glen’, published in a street Broadside in Britain, dated to around 1890-1900.
³ From Harley, p. 214. Here he is referring to William hone, and his 1838 publication ‘The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information’.