Gem Names Reappraised
Since we last looked, jewel names have really begun to shine, some of them approaching the popularity they had when they were all the rage from the 1880s to the 1920s. We thought it was time to take out our loupes and look at what’s up front in the jewelry-name case.
Currently on display
Ruby is the most popular of the gem names at the moment, standing at #108, though nowhere near its all-time peak of #22 in 1911. Vibrant, bold and sultry, it has a lot of appeal and we see it as trending even higher in the near future. It’s recently been as high as #1 in Wales, #2 in New Zealand and #3 in both the UK and Australia, and is a celeb fave via such Ruby parents as Tobey Maguire, Jillian Barberie Reynolds and Matthew Modine.
Jade, a green stone said to transmit several desirable qualities andwhich projects a somewhat exotic aura, is not far behind at #129, although it’s a relative newcomer– it didn’t enter the Top 1000 until 1975. By 1986 it had climbed to #86, and now stands at 129. The Spanish Jada is running neck and neck with Jade, and celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis gave her daughter the English translation of her own Italian name.
Amber was #583 in 1880, then shot into the Top 15 in 1986. It’s now still in the Top 200, having been given an infusion of glamour by model Amber Valletta, and youthful energy by actress Amber Tamblyn.
Jasper, a variety of quartz, is one of the few gemstone names used for boys. Popular in the late 19th century, it is now at its highest point since the 1920s, in part due to its Twilight connection. It’s also particularly hot in Belgium and the Netherlands, and has culture cred via artist Jasper Johns.
Lost some luster
Crystal is next in the rankings, but nowhere near its high of #9 in 1982 and 21st for all of the Dynasty-period 1980s. It is still #282, but has definitely lost some of its sparkle.
Diamond, after first appearing on the list in 1986, had its most shining moment in the 1990s, but has now dimmed considerably and we don’t see it regaining its spark.
Coral is another name that was part of the Victorian jewel name craze, but is rarely given these days, despite making an appearance in Finding Nemo. The French version Coralie is still in use in France and Coraline was a popular recent film.
Beryl, a crystalline mineral that includes aquamarines and emeralds, saw some success here (it was always more popular in the UK) in the 1910s and ‘20s—when it was also used for boys—but has gone the way of Cheryl/Sheryl and Meryl.
Pearl would have fallen into this category until a few years ago but is definitely showing signs of a revival. In the top 25 at the turn of the last century—when it too was also on the boys’ list– it fell off the list completely in 1987, only to pop back on two years ago. SNL alum Maya Rudolph named her daughter in honor of singer Pearl Bailey. Makes a lustrous middle name choice, and the Spanish Perla is attractive too.
Opal is another that could gain back its opalescence. Off the list for half a century, it’s made a few movie appearances lately that have put it back in the box.
Garnet—virtually unheard today—reached its high point in 1911, and then completely disappeared by World War II. unusual enough to possibly be polished up for revival.
Emerald made a brief appearance in the 1990s and we’re wondering if it has a chance of hitching its star to the Emily–Emma–Emerson–Emmett–Emery bandwagon. The Spanish version, Esmeralda, is heard more often.
These names have never made it onto the list at all, but have their own distinctive, somewhat exotic charm:
Gemma—Very popular in the British Isles in the 1980s, and still in the top 100s in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, this Italian saint’s name meaning gem, also the name of the wife of the poet Dante, is definitely on the upswing in the US.
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Emmy Jo Said
on November 23rd, 2010 at 4:06 am
Gem names are lovely. I have a great aunt Jewel and a great grandmother Opal, and I’d love to use one of their names as a middle for a daughter.
I believe it was Elisabeth of “You Can’t Call It ‘It'” who suggested Olivine (the mineral form of peridot) as a girls’ name. Definitely works better than peridot.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 9:08 am
I love, love, love Garnet on a guy! It’s an old family name for me, and I’d kill to use it. I really like most of the gem names. Coral (& Coralie) are awesome, Opal’s sweet (and a darling little girl pig on PBS). Ruby is my birthstone, so I’ve been thinking of using it in the middle. And Elisabeth’s Olivine? Just divine!
on November 23rd, 2010 at 10:34 am
Interesting. I especially like Ruby, Jasper, and Opal. Garnet would look great on a guy!
on November 23rd, 2010 at 11:39 am
I think Onyx and Sapphira are fab!
on November 23rd, 2010 at 11:55 am
I love Gemma, and would love to use Opal as a tribute to my parents, who both have October birthdays. (The October birthstone is the Opal.) I also have Amethyst on my guilty pleasure list, as I love purple. I also like Garnet and Ruby.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:27 pm
I think Emerald sounds too much like Emeril to become trendy.
I love the character Sapphire in Almost Famous, so that name has rock and roll associations for me.
I think Ruby and Jasper would make an adorable set of twins.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 1:14 pm
I love Ruby, Coraline, Pearl, maybe Opal, and Garnet for boys. I know a little Ruby, and she is the cutest baby in the world. Aren’t people using Serafina? I could see Sapphire catching on, because of that. Here’s why I would never use Jade:
According to the OED, a jade is a
1. A contemptuous name for a horse; a horse of inferior breed, e.g. a cart- or draught-horse as opposed to a riding horse; a roadster, a hack; a sorry, ill-conditioned, wearied, or worn-out horse; a vicious, worthless, ill-tempered horse; rarely applied to a donkey.
2. A term of reprobation applied to a woman. Also used playfully, like hussy or minx.
I read a lot of older books, in which Jade is frequently employed to refer to ladies of unsavory reputation. In more common use, the term “jaded” comes to mind as well.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 2:47 pm
Jade actually charted for boys before it charted for girls. Jada is more appropriate for girls imo.
Ruby would make a nice nickname for a boy, short for Ruben.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 5:22 pm
@ Macy…my sister in law’s boyfriend’s name is Reuben…we call him Ruby :o)
on November 23rd, 2010 at 6:02 pm
I know a Sapphire (in her 20s). And I love Amethyst! But I’m afraid she’d be called Amy (yawn).
on November 23rd, 2010 at 6:45 pm
Onyx was the name of a pokemon, so I would steer clear of that one.
on November 23rd, 2010 at 8:56 pm
I love Opal (and it happens to be my birthstone) and Ruby is cute (my husband’s and BIL’s birthstone), but too popular. I really like Jasper, but [%#$*] Twilight has ruined it for me and I feel like I can’t use it. I could see Amethyst (my dad’s birthstone) and Emerald nn Emmy (MIL’s stone), but DH would never go for either. Pearl could work (my mom’s and FIL’s birthstone). Garnet (my sis’s stone) might be a winner…
on November 23rd, 2010 at 11:16 pm
DH and I really love Peridot but are very concerned that people will mispronounce it like crazy. Would it be just wrong to spell it Peridoe?
on November 24th, 2010 at 2:30 am
My FAVORITE name right now is Gemma. I love it!
on November 24th, 2010 at 8:12 pm
I know a young adult woman named Topacio (spanish for topaz) in northern Mexico.
on November 25th, 2010 at 1:12 am
My daughter’s name is Ruby and I LOVE it. However, the most popular TV show in Australia has a baby named Ruby and one of my colleagues has already made that connection (the baby on TV was born first, so I can’t say “But my baby was born beforehand”). I also know three other Rubys (two babies and one sixteen-year-old). I know a five-year-old girl named Jade. Sapphira is one of my favourite girls names.
on November 25th, 2010 at 8:06 pm
I know a girl Garnet (age 15)! I really like Gemma.
on December 3rd, 2010 at 1:19 am
i clicked on nature names and got gems! what about Ridge, Chasm, River, Ford, Thorne, Delta, and Gone With The Wind’s Ash?i know there are many more, but why only gems when i click on nature????
on December 7th, 2010 at 9:47 am
Pearl is on my short list (though a ways down) and Ruby is a name I used for a baby I miscarried. I like a lot of these–Diamond is fun, though I wouldn’t use it for a child.
on April 20th, 2011 at 1:12 am
I love several of these names, but I think I’d have a hard time convincing hubby to use any of them. My all-time favorites are Amethyst, Emerald, Sapphira, Jade (although I prefer to spell it Jaide) and (not mentioned on the list, but I love it anyway) Aquamarine for girls, and Onyx, Jasper, and (again, not mentioned) Malachite for boys. I’d also love to see Garnet, Topaz, Turquoise, and Cyan go either way.
tessa magnolia Said
on July 2nd, 2011 at 9:09 pm
One of my friends is Amethyst nn Amy. It totally suits her!
on November 24th, 2013 at 4:39 pm
Love Pearl and Gemma! I see them rising in popularity, but hopefully they won’t get too trndy and overused and become the next ‘Crystal’.
on November 24th, 2013 at 8:09 pm
Gemma is a lovely name. It’s come to my attention recently because of the character of Gemma Teller Morrow on [i]Sons of Anarchy[/i] (actress Katey Sagal). She’s the matriarch of an outlaw biker club and is fiercely protective of her “boys,” and is made of steel, which are good things. However, for the me, the name is so securely attached to her that I don’t think I could use it.
on November 25th, 2013 at 10:27 am
Amethyst, Garnet, Opal. for girls
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