Girls have worn the names of precious gems for generations. From vintage Pearl to modern Emerald, the options are a rich and vibrant bunch. Gemstone names can be obvious and even flashy – think Diamond – to subtle, even under-the-radar, like Gemma.
If you’re thinking about a jewel box pick for a daughter, here’s a list, ranging from the traditional and popular to the downright daring.
Traditional Gemstone Names
Amber – As a name, Amber was boosted by a scandalous 1944 romance novel, but it has been considered desirable for far longer. Formed when tree resin hardens, amber is especially common near the Baltic Sea, and entire trade routes once flourished based on transporting amber.
Beryl – Traditional might not be the best word here, but Beryl has been in use as a given name throughout the twentieth century. Noted aviatrix Beryl Markham is one notable bearer. It comes from a Greek word borrowed from Sanskrit, referring to the blue-green seawater color of the stone. Though beryl can also be green, red, gold, white, pink, or even clear.
Coral – There’s something kicky and retro about Coral, a regular in the Top 1000 in the 1880s and 1890s. She was Nemo’s ill-fated fish mom in the Disney flick. Coral stands out on this list – instead of a gemstone, it starts out as a living sea creature. The bright red-pink skeleton can be polished into jewelry. It’s been worn since Ancient Egypt, and it features in myths and legends through the years. My favorite: a belief that blood from the slayed monster Medusa’s head seeped into the ocean and gave turned drab seaweed into vibrant coral.
Ebony – She hovered just outside the US Top 100 in the 1980s, a heritage choice for black parents in the US. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a gemstone at all, but a very dark hardwood that can be polished ’til it shines. Deforestation threatens the trees that produce ebony, and the name feels the tiniest bit dated in 2014 – more mom-name than kid. She left the US Top 1000 after 2005.
Jade – Jade has had a good run in the US, ranking as high as #86 in 2002 and helping to inspire spin-off names like Jada. There are two separate types of rock known as jade. Both are a shade of green, ranging from light to vibrant. As a given name, Jade first ranks in the US Top 1000 in 1975, just a few years after Mick Jagger gave the name to his daughter with model-wife Bianca. I’ve also heard this one used for men, and it wears very well.
Pearl – She’s a vintage favorite on the upswing. Pearls occur naturally when a speck of something settles inside a mollusk. The gemstone is created by the iridescent shell around the speck – actually chemicals secreted to protect the mollusk from the irritant. Once we had to open bushels of mollusks to find a handful of pearls. Now we farm them. It’s the gemstone for June, and carries all sorts of spiritual and literary meanings, including Hester Prynne’s daughter, Pearl, in The Scarlet Letter.
Opal – Opal ranked in the US Top 100 from 1904 through 1919, making her prime for revival in 2014. They come in a wide variety of colors and varieties. It’s associated with October, and was once thought to bring good luck – until a popular nineteenth century novel put a tarnished opal at the center of its plot, and opal sales plummeted. Today, though, an opal is just a lovely gemstone – and a lovely gemstone name for a girl.
Ruby – A favorite in the first half of the twentieth century, and a name that’s made a comeback in recent years, the red Ruby brings to mind so many things. The color, Dorothy’s charmed slippers, many a popular song, from “Ruby Tuesday” to “Ruby Soho.” Ruby is short, sweet, and complete, plus she manages to be friendly and sophisticated at once.
Daring Gemstone Names
Agate – I mentioned this one as a possible formal name for Aggie. She’s a gemstone name, but Agate also looks a lot like international forms of Agatha, like Agathe and Agata – and that might make her more wearable than she initially appears.
Carnelian – I’m fascinated by the idea of Carnelian as a substitute for Caroline, or maybe just as a middle name. A deep red stone, it is less precious than rubies, but often listed as a birth stone for the summer months, too.
Garnet – It’s a tailored name, close to the masculine Garrett and Gareth. But garnet is also a gemstone, used from the Late Roman era into the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. It is the birthstone for January and the official gemstone of the state of New York.
Iolite – Feel that Violet is too popular? Iolite is the Greek word for violet, and the gemstone name for cordierite. It comes in all shades of blue and has a curious feature – on cloudy days, it can serve as a compass, by showing the true direction of the sun on cloudy days.
Ivory – On the downside, our desire for decorative objets crafted from ivory has contributed to population declines of elephants and is now heavily restricted. But ivory has a long history of use in jewelry, art, and many an item, from piano keys to carved icons. And her sound is exactly on trend, making Ivory an unusual, but possible, name for a child.
Lazuli – An intense shade of blue, lapis lazuli was long the only way to create a vibrant shade of blue paint. Lapis is Latin for stone, while lazuli comes from a Persian word meaning heaven or sky, so lapis lazuli is the stone of heaven. It could make an interesting, surprising choice for a daughter’s name.
Onyx – I tend to think of Onyx as a possible color/nature x-ending name for a boy, but there’s nothing gender-specific about this one. Onyx has been used for everything from bowls to beads, and ranges in color from white to black, though it is the darker hues that we associate with the stone.
Peridot – Call me pretentious, but I’ve been walking around pronouncing this gemstone with a silent t: pehr eh doe. Turns out the standard English pronunciation rhymes the dot with hot and scott, though both are used. I think the doe ending sounds slightly more name-like, fitting in with Cleo and Coco and Margot, too. But the other version does raise the possible nickname Dot.
Sapphire – They’re glittering blue gems, widely recognized and valued in jewelry. Princess Diana’s engagement ring was a 12-carat blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds – it is now worn by Princess Kate. It would make a daring name, but not an unwearable one. For something just the tiniest bit less gemstone-like, there’s Sapphira – a name used by Willa Cather and worn by a Biblical figure, too.
Topaz – It’s a hummingbird, a Hitchcock film, and a gemstone, too. Topaz also has that high-value-Scrabble letter z-ending. It’s a little flashy, but picks up a quirky, literary vibe thanks to Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle – Topaz is the stepmother of the eccentric Mortmain clan.
Tourmaline – Like Olivine, she might make for a perfect unexpected middle. Can’t picture tourmaline? Neither can I. It comes in a wide variety of types and colors. And yet, most would instantly recognize this as a gemstone name.
Can’t Choose Just One Gemstone Names
Bijou – Originally from a Breton word for a bejeweled ring, today bijou refers to any little gem or bauble. It’s also a synonym for elegant, and a name associated with theaters and at least one famous figure, Bijou Phillips, daughter of musician John Phillips.
Gemma – In Italian, gemma is their word for gem – a precious stone. Both come from Latin. It may have been a term of endearment before it was a given name, but it has a long history of use in the first spot in Italy. Today Gemma is gaining rapidly, helped by her rhymes-with-Emma sound and her sparkly meaning.
Jewel – Singer Jewel Kilcher hit it big in the 1990s, using just her first name. It has a much longer history of use than you might guess, for men and women, and ties to a Saint Judicael, the name of a seventh century Breton king. Today it is more likely to be seen as a noun name, and a feminine one. Jewel’s close to the classic Julia and company, increasing her wearability.
Soraya – She’s associated with the Pleiades, a constellation sometimes known as the Seven Sisters, but Soraya comes from an Arabic word meaning jewel.
Are there other gemstones that would make great girls’ names? Do you see any on this list that you might consider for a daughter?