Alexandrite is a rare, precious gemstone named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881). The most unusual feature of this stone is its ability to change its color under different lights. This unique optical illusion makes it one of the most valuable gemstones, especially in fine qualities.
Hardness: Alexandrite has a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Color: A high quality alexandrite should display a vivid bluish-green hue in daylight and a purplish-red hue in artificial light, without any trace of brown or grey.
Birthstone: Alexandrite is considered one of the June birthstones and is associated with the Zodiac sign of Scorpio.
Scarcity: Alexandrites are very scarce, even rarer than fine rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Beautiful alexandrite in top quality is hardly ever used in modern jewelry because of its scarcity.
Value: Alexandrite’s rarity and color changing quality have made it one of the most sought after and valued gems today. Alexandrites that are finely faceted and weigh above one carat are among the most expensive and valuable gemstones in the world. It is the only gemstone that has its own very specific and strict scale for color change. The more brilliant both colors are (green and red), the higher the value and the more the drastic the change between the two colors, the higher the value.
Most Common Cuts: Alexandrite is most often faceted into round and cushion cuts that can bring out the best in its color. It is used to make rings and pendant centerpieces.
Gradings: Alexandrite is graded from Gem to A (lowest to highest).
Chemical Formula: The chemical formula for an alexandrite is Beryllium Aluminum Oxide (BeO Al2 O3).
Synthetic Varieties: Synthetic alexandrite has been around in some form for at least one hundred years. In the past, synthetic corundum (sapphire) which has an alexandrite-like color change has been used as a synthetic variety. There have also been some recent gems mislabeled as Alexandrite. These are the color change chrysoberyl (not green/red) and the bright green chrysoberyl, which do not change colors at all. Simulated, laboratory created alexandrite, has been around since the 1970’s. Today, laboratory and synthetic alexandrite is available and is mostly used in jewelry.
History: Although Alexandrite has been a part of the earth for millions of years, unlike many other gems, it was not known and used in jewelry by the ancient Greek or Romans or any ancient civilization. The very first crystals were discovered in 1834 in the emerald mines near the Tokovaya River in the Urals, Russia and were destined for a noble future because the discovery was made on the day the future Russian Tsar, Alexander, came of age. The gem was also embraced because it matched the red and green colors present in the Imperial Russian flag.
These deposits were of a fine quality and displayed vivid hues and dramatic color changes.
Unfortunately, the Ural Mountain deposits were exploited very quickly, and now most alexandrite comes from others places such as Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, Tanzania, and Madagascar. The newer finds contain some high quality stone, but many possess less precise color change than the alexandrites found in Russian. Because these stones did not possess the marvelous qualities they once did, the gemstone became less popular over time. This changed when in 1987, high quality alexandrites were discovered in Minas Gerais, Brazil. This site is one of the most valuable mining sites today.
Rumored Healing Properties: The healing powers of gems remain a controversial issue, but alexandrite has said to have many healing powers. It is said to increase intuition and creativity, boost confidence, and inspire the imagination. It is also said to bring balance to one’s emotional state, and to bring about positive change. It has been said to intensify the feelings of compassion, love, and sensuality and is also known to induce happiness and success. Physically, Alexandrite is said to help treat pancreatic disorders, ailments of the spleen, and swollen lymph nodes. Some believe it can also be helpful in the treating leukemia.