Gem Names Reappraised

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 EmilyEmmaEmersonEmmettEmery bandwagon.  The Spanish version, Esmeralda, is heard more often.

Undiscovered Gems

These names have never made it onto the list at all, but have their own distinctive, somewhat exotic charm:






The Generics

Jewel—In wide use in the early 1900s for both genders; it’s main modern namesake is singer Jewel (Kilcher).  The foreign versions have more shimmer.

Bijou – This delicate and aapealing French version was brought to light by actress/singer Bijou Phillips.

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.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.