The Story Behind the Stone: What’s in a name?

Jarrett necklaceToday gemstones can sport some pretty imaginative monikers. Consider Tanzanite. It’s not really that mineral species official name per se. It’s a pretty title that the great jeweler Tiffany bestowed on a previously unknown variety of the mineral zoisite - a much jazzier word wouldn’t you agree? Gemstone names can also be derived from their place of discovery - think Paraiba tourmaline for instance. This rare jewel turned up in the Brazilian state of... you guessed it, Paraiba. But gemstones have also been named for special individuals - maybe the stone’s discoverer or someone deemed worthy of immortalization in this way.

John Pierpont Morgan was a prominent 19th century to early 20th century American financier and banker. He was responsible for some of the most magnificent corporate consolidations during a time called the Progressive Era. His brilliant mind was responsible for stopping the great US economic collapse of 1907.

Like many great thinkers, Morgan had other interests outside of the corporate world and banking. He was a great benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Groton School, Harvard University (especially its medical school), Trinity College, the Lying-in Hospital of the City of New York, and the New York trade schools. He was an avid photographer and pre-eminent gemstone collector, amassing over 1,000 specimens. His collection drew rapt attention worldwide at various exhibitions.

Jarrett roughHis friend was the renowned gemologist, George Frederick Kunz. He was also purveyor for some of Morgan’s finest additions in his gem collection. It was Kunz who bestowed the name Morganite on a new beryl discovery in homage to his friend J.P. Morgan.

This hypnotic stone’s color defies an exact description. And that somehow adds to its allure. It can be said to be a light salmon pink, a peachy-pastel pink, but it can also have some lilac back-color in certain instances. Fortunately for lovers of this mesmerizing stone, it may be found in large crystals, which opens up opportunities for its use. Morganite is prized for being a clean stone - making its transparency especially appealing when it is cut in large carat sizes. Certain collectors however, will seek out Morganite stones with its iconic ‘silk’ inclusions - a prized trait for the die-hard aficionado.

Jarrett MorganMorganite is a good gemstone choice for rings because of its relative hardness - 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale. Although first discovered in 1908 in Madagascar, other locales have since turned up this dazzling material. Exotic far flung regions like Namibia, Afghanistan, Mozambique, and not so far-flung areas like Brazil and even the US all produce this sweet pinky-peachy-salmon stone. For those collectors who love a good story - and who doesn’t - this one is about as good as it gets. While colored stones of every ilk are more easily recognized by consumers today, Morganite still carries that air of exclusivity, much like you’d expect from a stone named after one of our nation’s great industrialists.

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).