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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Moonstone Carving

Photograph of a round carved moonstone (NMNH G2104) from the National Gem Collection being held between two fingers
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G2104-00
Locality Sri Lanka
Weight 50.77 ct

Purchased in 1931.

The minerals in the feldspar family make up more than half of the Earth’s rocky crust. Occasionally these common minerals form crystals that shimmer like the light of the moon or a rainbow on a soap bubble. Called iridescence, this phenomenon is caused by light scattering, or diffracting, off closely spaced layers in the feldspar crystals. The gems cut from these iridescent crystals are called moonstone, sunstone, and labradorite. This delicately carved 50.77ct moonstone is from Sri Lanka. Moonstone is the most highly prized of the feldspar gems and is valued for its beautiful blue sheen, called adularescence.


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