Moonstone and Pearl: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Despite being strikingly similar in appearance and texture, moonstone and pearl are actually very distinctive in a number of different ways.

Both are loved for their beauty and the ethereal qualities they share, yet it is important to look deeper to find the differences between these two stones.

In this article, we will look at what moonstone and pearl are and how they differ from one another.

Moonstone and Pearl (Explained)

Moonstone Facts

Moonstone is a fairly durable, widely available gemstone, which takes its name from its similarities to the moon, particularly the sheen it gives off.

It is an increasingly popular choice of gemstone for jewelry, due to its unusual, beautiful colors and its associations with the moon.

Typically, the moonstone’s metaphysical properties are thought to include love, fertility, and protection.

Pearl Facts

For thousands of years, pearl has been an extremely popular choice of stone, thought to be a timeless and elegant option for jewelry and decoration.

Unique in its origin and its status of forming from a living creature, the pearl is rare and can be very expensive.

Steeped in thousands of years of history, the pearl is associated with ancient beliefs such as the capability to lengthen life and increase prosperity in the wearer.

What Are the Similarities Between Moonstone and Pearl?

Despite the initial apparent similarities between moonstone and pearl, the parallels between them are actually few.

Perhaps the key similarity between moonstone and pearl is the shared appearance, which is appreciated by many across the world.

Both are typically ethereal and moon-like in appearance, giving off an unusual beauty.

Both stones also share the same luster type: they are both classified as having a pearly luster, which means they give off a silky appearance. 

Another similarity is found in the originating countries of the two stones.

Both moonstone and pearl are thought to have originated thousands of years ago in southern and central Africa.

Although from differing regions, the two share a common ancestral land.

Unfortunately, both are also thought to have gone extinct in their natural, most valuable form.

Typically, over the years, the two have been harvested and cultured for use in jewelry, making them ever rarer and more valuable stones.

What Are the Differences Between Moonstone and Pearl?

A key difference between the moonstone and the pearl is the method by which they are formed.

Famously, pearls are formed inside mollusks, created as a defense against irritants such as parasites.

They can also be commercially created by inducing the process in the mollusk, purposefully introducing an irritant to promote pearl production.

The moonstone, on the other hand, is created through a much more complex process which occurs in the earth’s crust.

When a mineral called feldspar hardens and solidifies, the moonstone is created in its rawest form.

Due to the ways they are created, the moonstone is considered a true gemstone in its own right, while the pearl is merely grouped with gemstones because it is so precious a stone.

There are also differences in appearance between the moonstone and the pearl, which may be surprising to some given the apparent similarities between their appearances.

The pearl, for instance, is a firmly opaque stone while the moonstone is usually either transparent or translucent.

They can also differ in color; the pearl can be white, brown, orange and even purple, while the color of the moonstone tends to range from white to colorless, with pink, green and even grey variants available.

In terms of physical properties, there are yet more differences between the two stones.

For instance, the pearl has half the amount of hardness as the moonstone, standing at three and six respectively on the Mohs scale of hardness.

This means the moonstone is a much more durable stone than pearl and tends to be tougher in terms of scratching and breaking.

The ways in which moonstone and pearl are used can also differ.

Over the years, the pearl has typically been harvested for jewelry or as decoration for clothing.

However, it also has other uses; historically, crushed pearl has been used to create cosmetics and medicines, among other things.

Moonstone, however, is generally refined to use in jewelry or home décor.

Why Do People Confuse Moonstone and Pearl?

Given the striking similarities in the appearances of the moonstone and the pearl, it is not difficult to see why some people can confuse the two on occasion.

The often silky, glow-like sheen associated with both makes them difficult to distinguish at first sight.

As we have seen, it is important to look a little deeper at each in order to distinguish one from the other.

Their physical properties and the subtle differences in appearance can often be too understated for some people to pick up on, making distinction harder to achieve. 

Moving away from physical similarities, the long and deep associations placed on both is another reason why some people may get confused between the two stones.

Historically, each has been used for similar reasons, usually for jewelry or decoration purposes, and have lasting associations with the moon and femininity.

For these reasons, it is possible to confuse one for other if you have limited knowledge of how to differentiate in other ways.

Due to their similar appearances, the moonstone is often lauded as a substitute for pearl, and many may become confused by this.

However, there are ways to distinguish the moonstone from the pearl.

The primary way to do this is to look for the presence of adularescence, the unique sheen given off by moonstone but not by pearl.

A pearl will generally give off a slightly flatter, more creamy sheen which makes it possible to tell the pearl from the moonstone.


Despite first impressions, the moonstone and the pearl are only really similar in appearance.

They both have a long history of being thought of as important stones, culturally and aesthetically and have been used for thousands of years in jewelry and decoration.

Yet, as we have seen, their differences far outweigh their similarities.

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