American Names

These Names are Gems

These names are gems – literally!  Gem-names enjoy mostly feminine usage, but they’re increasingly unisex or even masculine.  Let’s take a look at how popular these baby names were in 2016, according to Social Security Administration data!


  • Amber – Current rank: #374 and falling.  Amber‘s current stint in the top 1000 started after the publication of Forever Amber.  From what I understand, that book is the World War II generation’s 50 Shades of Gray.
  • Amethyst – 159 girls in 2016, up from 125 in 2015. 
  • Coral – 199 girls, down from 201.
  • Diamond – 226 girls, down from 262; 33 boys, down from 35.
  • Emerald – 219 girls, up from 194; 13 boys, up from 6.  A couple weeks ago, I watched the original Twin Peaks and got a kick out of the names from the fictional soap opera within.  “Invitation to Love” has twin characters named Emerald and Jade.
  • Garnet – 15 girls, up from 7; 6 boys (reentry).  A couple years ago I was reading something in the paper about a local family, and one of their young sons was named GarnetGarnet was a mildly popular girls’ name in the early 20th century, though it’s almost always enjoyed use amidst both genders.
  • Heliodor / Heliodore – Golden beryl.  Although Heliodore is unrecorded in the SSA data, Heliodoro is.
  • Jacinth – Not currently in use, but there are male and female Jacinths.
  • Jade – #117, up from #126.  Even though Madison and Ashley were supposedly way more popular than Jade when I was growing up, I feel like Jade was more popular locally.  I knew several. 
  • Jasper – #209 and still rising.  Jasper‘s never been out of the top 1000, though the Twilight series gave him a boost. 
  • Obsidian – As far as I can tell, Obsidian has only charted once in the SSA stats (5 boys were given the name in 2013).  I’m really surprised it isn’t a more popular baby name…it sounds so cool!
  • Onyx – Increasingly popular unisex gem name!  Onyx was given to 172 boys and 56 girls in 2016, up from 118 boys and 38 girls in 2015.  I personally wonder if we’re going to see this in the top 1000 in 2017 or 2018; for a boys’ name to rank, it currently needs at least 202 boys to rank.  Onyx isn’t far off that mark!
  • Opal – 256 girls, up from 231.  Do you think this will return to the top 1000 in 2017?  The current usage threshold for girls’ names is in the 260-270 range.
  • Pearl – #567, up from #627.  Pearl was relatively popular for both genders at the advent of the 20th century, but especially for girls.  There was a male writer called Zane Grey (1872-1939) whose first name was Pearl.
  • Ruby – #71, and the most popular gem name.  Ruby hasn’t been this popular since World War II!
  • Sapphire – 165, up from 147.

    Logan Sapphire
    The name Sapphire is more popular in 2016 than 2015, but still rare.
  • Topaz – 6 girls (reentry).  Topaz is the name of the stepmom in I Capture the Castle, so there’s some literary prestige here!
  • Turquoise – Not currently in use; most of the women named Turquoise were born in the late 70s or in the 80s.  

Names with gem meanings or associations:

  • Beryl – 9 girls (stable).  Beryl is a mineral: emeralds, aquamarine, and heliodor are all considered beryls.  As far as namesakes go, I think of the early aviatrix Beryl Markham, who wrote West with the Night
  • Crystal – #572, down from #554.  Crystal hit the U.S. top 10 in 1982, but it’s been downwards ever since.
  • Esmeralda – #377, down from #370; Spanish for “emerald.”  Esmeralda spiked in the two years after Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame came out.
  • Gem – 14 girls, up from 8.
  • Giada – 178 girls, down from 203.  Italian for “Jade”
  • Gemma – #247 and rising.  Italian name meaning “gem.”  Growing up, I actually knew a Gemma.  She was born a good while before her name ever cracked the top 1000.
  • Jewel – #924, down from #886.
  • Margaret – #139 and rising.  A classic English name deriving from a Greek name that means “pearl.”  I can’t tell you how happy I am that Margaret is making a comeback!
  • Sapphira – 50 girls, up from 45.  Greek name, Biblical character.

Gems that aren’t already names but probably should be:

Not your stereotypical gems, except for Ruby and Amethyst
  • Agate – I could see this as a nickname for Agatha.
  • AquamarineAqua is a spunky nickname, though it may lead to spontaneous a capella renditions of “Barbie Girl.”  For more subdued nicknames, try Marie or Marina.
  • Chrysocolla – might be a little unwieldy without a nickname.  “Chris?”
  • Lapis – from Lapis Lazuli
  • PeridotPerry or Dot for short?  Dottie?
  • Quartz – I’m surprised that I can’t find this in the SSA stats.  Quartz would work especially well as a boys’ name. 
  • Tourmaline
  • Zircon / Zirconia – I’m not sure how I’d feel if I were named after a synthetic gem stone, but Zirconia sounds kind of pretty and Zircon sounds cool. 

One last note – If you like the idea of a timely, seasonal name, look to the birthstones!  Most of these work better for girls, but there are plenty of gem-names that can go either way. 

  1. JanuaryGarnet
  2. February – Amethyst
  3. March – Aquamarine / Bloodstone.  Jasper also used to be a March stone.
  4. AprilDiamond
  5. MayEmerald
  6. JunePearl / Moonstone / Alexandrite
  7. JulyRuby
  8. August – Peridot / Spinel
  9. SeptemberSapphire
  10. OctoberOpal / Tourmaline
  11. NovemberTopaz / Citrine
  12. DecemberTurquoise / Zircon / Tanzanite

What is your favorite gem name?

3 thoughts on “These Names are Gems

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