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Gem Names: The hot new name category

by Sophie Kihm

Gem names are a hot category in baby names right now, with many of them shooting up the popularity charts. They’ve even been embraced for boys—Onyx was one of the fastest-rising boys’ names in 2018.

Current favorites like Jade and Ruby have plateaued, while former hits Crystal, Amber, and Diamond have plummeted. The new generation of gem names on the rise are a mix of vintage revivals and modern jewels.

Amethyst: Amethyst is one of the rarest names on this list—it was only given to 166 baby girls last year—but there’s no question it is increasing in popularity. In 2010 only 62 girls received this gem name, and eight years later it’s more than doubled in use. Amethyst is a purple-hued gemstone and the birthstone for February, so it would work well for an Aquarius baby or Pisces baby.

Emerald: It’s shocking that Emerald isn’t in the Top 1000—it only missed it by ten births—considering the Em- name and gem names trends. It will likely break into the charts in 2019. The Spanish version, Esmeralda, is far more popular, particularly among Hispanic parents. It’s been hovering in the low 300s for the past five years but reached as high as #134 in 1998.

Esme: Esme is the Persian word for Emerald as well as a French name meaning “beloved.” It joined the Top 1000 in 2010, and since then has climbed to #556. Esme is a literary name, featured prominently in J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esmé, With Love and Squalor. It was also used in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and was notably combined with Renee to create the name for baby Renesmee.

Gemma: Currently in the UK, news abounds about the name Gemma going extinct. It was a hit there in the 1980s, and much like our gemstone names of that era (ahem, Crystal and Amber), it is falling fast. But here in the US, Gemma is a fresh and mildly exotic alternative to Emma. It ranks at #229 and has potential to rise even further.

Goldie: Sassy but sweet, the retro nickname Goldie is perfect for parents who are lamenting that Ruby is in the Top 100. It is zooming up the charts—although only given to 139 babies last year, at the rate it’s going it could break the Top 1000 before long. Stylish moms and dads have taken note of Goldie. Blogger Elsie Larson uses it as a nickname for her daughter Marigold.

 Ivory: After leaving the Top 1000 in 1935, Ivory rejoined the popularity charts in 2013. Since then it has made it to the Top 700, although it’s unclear if it will rise any further. Unfortunately, the association with the illegal ivory trade may deter people from using Ivory as a baby name. Ebony, often considered the antithesis of Ivory, was most popular in the 1980s and left the Top 1000 in 2006.

Jasper: Jasper has been on the rise since the ‘90s and is now at an all-time high of #154. It seems like it has still more steam left in it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jasper cracked the Top 100 in 2020. As a gem, Jasper is a type of quartz that comes in red, yellow, brown, or green. Chelsea Clinton just gave the name to her second son.

 Jet: Jet is a black gem that is formed as the result of wood decaying under pressure. It was very popular in the Victorian era, when it was a part of mourning jewelry. Jett—with two Ts—is a cool name for boys, and now ranks at #304 on the US popularity charts. Jet—the gemstone spelling—does not rank but is rising as well. Jet can be used as a nickname for Jethro, or even Jetson.

Onyx: Onyx is a newcomer to the Top 1000, entering this year at #867. Like Jet and Jasper, it’s mostly used for boys—it was given to roughly three times as many boys as girls in 2018. Onyx is a dark gem—usually red or black—that is known for its bands. Historically, it was often used to create cameos.

Opal: Opal is finally back on the charts after decades of being considered an old lady name. The cute and quirky Sanskrit name literally means “gem,” although it also refers to a specific stone. Opals are the national gemstone of Australia, where many of them are mined, making it a good name for the daughter of someone with a connection to that country.

Pearl: Pearl rejoined the Top 1000 in 2010 and has since made it all the way into the Top 600. It’s especially common as a middle name, where single-syllable names are highly coveted. The pearl is June’s birthstone, which would make Pearl a great name for a June baby, or one born under the Gemini or Cancer astrological signs. Maya Rudolph has a daughter named Pearl Minnie.

Sapphire: Sapphire is a precious gemstone, known for its rich blue color (although it comes in other hues as well). It’s a beautiful name, perfect for someone who loves the color blue, or a baby girl born in September, for which it is the birthstone. Sapphire almost squeaked into the Top 1000 but missed it by a mere five births. Sapphira is an intriguing biblical variation.

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.

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rubylark Says:

July 29th, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Love Goldie and Pearl!

flamingo Says:

July 29th, 2019 at 10:26 pm

Amethyst has been on my guilty pleasure list for years. I absolutely love it.

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