Alexandrite: The Imperial Gemstone

Alexandrite is one of the official birthstones of June, a status it shares with cultured pearl and moonstone.

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A relatively modern gem, it was first discovered in Russia in 1831 during the reign of its namesake, Czar Alexander II, and is an extremely rare chrysoberyl with chameleon-like qualities.

In Russian legend, this gemstone’s crystal powers were thought to carry good luck, fortune and love to its owner. It is also said to carry a good omen. Alexandrite was believed to be the stone that could bridge the physical and spiritual world.

A relatively modern gem, Alexandrite, was first discovered in Russia in 1831 during the reign of its namesake, Czar Alexander II.

Alexandrite was named after the last great Russian Czar Alexander II, as the stone was discovered in The Ural Mountains during his reign. He was ultimately assinated in 1881.

Alexandrite is a stone that is associated with discipline and self-control. Many believe that alexandrite and chrysoberyl stones can promote concentration and strengthen the ability to learn.

It also helps in evoking the wearer of the stone to strive for excellence. Chrysoberyl gemstones are said to bring peace to the mind, clear one’s thinking and they have the ability to increase self-confidence.

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The “alexandrite effect” shown here under daylight or fluorescent lighting conditions on the left, and under incandescent lighting on the right. (photo: G.I.A.)

Alexandrite, is one of the rarest of all colored gemstones available today; a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. Its color can be a lovely green in daylight or fluorescent light, changing to brownish or purplish red in the incandescent light.

Alexandrite is also a strongly pleochroic gem, which means it can show different colors when viewed from different directions. It can display emerald green, red, orange and yellow colors.

Alexandrite can also occur with yellowish and pink colors, and extremely rare specimens can exhibit chatoyancy (cat’s eye) effects when cut en cabochon.

“The Alexandrite effect” shown here in “cat’s-eye” chrysoberyl. A gem phenomena known as chatoyancy. This is extremely rare and the stones are very expensive.

The pleochroic properties of alexandrite are completely independent from its unique color change ability. The color change phenomenon seen in alexandrite is referred to as the ‘alexandrite effect’.

Alexandrite can also occur with yellowish and pink colors, and extremely rare specimens can exhibit chatoyancy (cat’s eye) effects when cut en cabochon. The color change is a result of the strong absorption of light in the yellow and blue portions of the color spectrum.

Russian women working the "sorting tables" seperating the alexandrite crystals from the crushed host rock.

Russian women working the “sorting tables” separating the alexandrite crystals from the crushed host rock. A tedious job for which they were paid very little.

Abundant alexandrite deposits were first discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Those first alexandrites were of very fine quality and displayed vivid hues and dramatic color change.

The spectacular Ural Mountain deposits didn’t last forever, and now most alexandrite primarily comes from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil. The newer deposits contain some fine-quality stones, but many display less-precise color change than the Russian alexandrites.

The “alexandrite effect” shown here in in the rough or uncut state. (photo: Kevin Ward)

Because of its scarcity, especially in larger sizes, alexandrite is a relatively expensive member of the chrysoberyl family. Due to its rarity, some jewelers stock synthetic versions of this amazing gemstone.

Alexandrite and chrysoberyl in general is a very durable and is suitable for everyday wear. Even so, it is still important to properly care for your jewelry or stones. Alexandrite can be easily cleaned using a mild soap and warm to room-temperature water.

The spectacular Ural Mountain deposits didn’t last forever, and now most alexandrite primarily comes from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil.

Most alexandrite now primarily comes from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil.

Alexandrites are harder than most other gemstones, therefore, when storing loose alexandrite gemstones and gemstone jewelry, wrap them with a soft protective cloth and store them separately from other gemstones.

We hope this article has given you a bit more of a background on alexandrite, but should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask our Jeweller”

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This article about alexandrite was compiled from my personal knowledge as a gemologist, as well as numerous online sources, individuals and textbooks. If you have something to add to this article that you feel would be of benefit to others, please, do not hesitate to contact us.

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