This magical chameleon-like gemstone is one of the world’s rarest gems due to scarcity. Alexandrite is the traditional birthstone for June, along with pearl and moonstone to lesser degrees.
Alexandrite has a rare and unique color-changing property. This chrysoberyl mineral appears green in daylight and changes appearance to purplish red in incandescent lighting. Alexandrite’s color change is so dramatic that these stones are often described by gem experts as “Emerald by day, Ruby by night”.
This relatively young gemstone does not have the same ancient history as many other gemstones due to the fact that is was not discovered until the 19th century. First discovered in Emerald mines along the Tokovaya River in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the early 1830s, miners initially thought the stones they had gathered were Emeralds until that night around the campfire they noticed the stones had changed to a brilliant red. By mornings light, they were back to green again. They quickly realized they had discovered a new and mystical gem.
Named after the young Czar Alexander II, these newly discovered gemstones became popular with jewelry buyers and were actively mined into the late 1890s at which time the Russian mines were depleted. It would take many years before new Alexandrite deposits were found. By the 1980s Alexandrite was discovered in Brazil and more recent deposits have been found in Sri Lanka, East Africa, the United States and Burma.
Because of its scarcity, natural fine quality Alexandrite is practically unaffordable to the average buyer. Faceted Alexandrite’s of two carats or more in size are extremely rare. Even low quality stones are expensive and in limited supply. Russian Alexandrite remains the most desirable on the market because of its deep saturation in colors. The dramatic color change in these stones makes their market value at around $100,000 + per carat, and even more if the gem has historical significance.
Today, when you come across Alexandrite set in jewelry, it will most likely be synthetic, especially in jewelry pieces with larger stones. Tiffany’s Master Gemologist, George Kunz became enamored with these gemstones and began to design rings and platinum suites in the late 19th and early 20th century. By the 1930s, as demand grew against the unavailability of stones to work with, synthetics began being created in greater quantities and can today be found in many jewelry designs recognized as vintage or antique. In modern times, labs have been growing synthetic Alexandrite, and even lab grown Alexandrite is an expensive process and these stones can still be costly.
HEALING AND MYSTICAL PROPERTIES
Alexandrite is believed to be a stone of prosperity and longevity. Balancing emotions, it helps to promote spiritual growth and is believed to boost self-confidence and self-esteem. Alexandrite is a stone considered to carry strong powers of health for the wearer by improving blood circulation, purifying blood and strengthening blood vessels. It also is said to positively influence the health of the spleen and pancreas. Mystics of the 19th century believed Alexandrite established harmony between the physical, astral and mental bodies of a person, making the wearer more peaceful and compliant. Alexandrite is believed to strengthen creative abilities and help spur imagination and may even boost intuitive abilities that will help find a way out of desperate situations.
EXAMPLES OF JEWELRY SET WITH ALEXANDRITE GEMS
Brazil, East Africa, Russia, Sri Lanka
HARDNESS & TOUGHNESS
Hardness: 8.5 on Mohs scale
CARE & CLEANING
Ultrasonic cleaning: Usually safe
Steam cleaning: Usually safe
Warm, soapy water: Safe
Synthetic color-change Sapphire
Synthetic color-change Spinel
Sources: Gemological Institute of America (GIA), American Gem Society, Sotheby’s, PriceScope, Pinterest
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