What is Natural Alexandrite: Discover Natural Chrysoberyl Gems

Dubbed the chameleon of gemstones, alexandrite shifts from green in sunlight to red in lamplight, earning it the nickname “emerald by day, ruby by night.” This dual-color feature allows you to enjoy two colors in one stone. Continue reading to learn more about alexandrite, one of the world’s rarest gemstones.

What Is Alexandrite?

Imagine alexandrite as more precious than diamonds and more valuable than sapphires. This gem is often described as “emerald by day and ruby by night” due to its unique ability to change from green to red depending on the lighting. However, finding authentic alexandrite that exhibits this dramatic color shift is increasingly rare, as “real” alexandrite is becoming scarce.

A 43-carat alexandrite in the collection of the British Museum.

Modern lab-grown alexandrite can display a range of colors, including green, orange, and purple-red, influenced by different light sources. Due to its rarity, natural alexandrite usually comes in sizes smaller than one carat; larger stones are exceedingly rare and command steep prices. Despite its size, the enchanting color change of alexandrite makes it a captivating choice for jewelry, offering the charm of a luxurious mood ring that’s both fun and sophisticated.

What Is Natural Alexandrite? Can Alexandrite Be Lab Grown?

True natural alexandrite is exceptionally rare, which is why many have not seen it in its genuine form. To address this scarcity, lab-created alexandrites are produced by replicating the natural conditions necessary to form the gemstone, thus speeding up its creation. This method offers a more accessible, affordable, and ethical alternative to natural alexandrite, aligning with our core values.

It’s important to note that while lab-grown alexandrite shares many qualities with its natural counterpart and is considered “real,” it does not hold the same value as natural alexandrite, which remains one of the most valuable gemstones. Moreover, lab-grown should not be confused with “fake” alexandrite. In the jewelry industry, there is a distinction between lab-grown gems and imitations. “Fake” alexandrite typically involves using materials like corundum to mimic the color-changing effect, or it may involve passing off other materials such as zandrite as alexandrite.

Is Natural Alexandrite Hard To Find?

Certainly, if you’re in the market for large, high-quality stones. Alexandrite was abundant when discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830s, but today it is exceedingly rare. This gem is now mined in limited quantities in Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil, with the scarcity driving up its price.

The distinctive color change from green to red, which alexandrite is renowned for, results from the rare occurrence of beryllium and chromium impurities within the mineral chrysoberyl. This combination is unusual, making each piece with a vivid color shift exceptionally valuable. Despite the high cost, owning a piece of alexandrite means possessing a natural and rare phenomenon, making it a true treasure.

History Of Alexandrite Gemstones

Alexander II, 1838 by Natali Chivomi

Named after Czar Alexander II, who is noted for emancipating Russia’s serfs, alexandrite had largely been depleted in Russia by the 1890s due to extensive mining. A global rediscovery sparked renewed interest in this remarkable gem, often referred to as a “second-chance stone.”

The color of alexandrite can vary by origin and sometimes helps identify imitations. Generally, the highest quality stones, predominantly green, are found in Africa. Indian alexandrite typically exhibits blue or grassy-green hues in daylight, whereas Sri Lankan stones lean towards yellowish-green. Sri Lankan alexandrites are often larger but tend to have a weaker color change, displaying a softer purple at night.

Given the rarity of the true “alexandrite effect” today, choosing a stone often boils down to personal preference between its colors in different lights—whether one favors the “emerald by day” or “ruby by night” appearance. For instance, Madagascan alexandrite might appear more brownish than purplish in incandescent light. Ultimately, the beauty of alexandrite is subjective, emphasizing that its allure truly lies in the eye of the beholder.

Alexandrite Meaning

Alexandrite symbolizes good fortune and abundance. Known for its rarity, this gem is closely associated with luck, often believed to bring forth lightheartedness, which in turn sparks creativity and the courage to follow one’s intuition. Possessing an alexandrite gem is said to not only attract prosperity but also enhance the wearer’s intellectual faculties. Essentially, owning and wearing alexandrite is thought to create a positive cycle where feeling lucky can lead to beneficial outcomes in various aspects of life.

Alexandrite Gemstone Properties

  • Mineral: Chrysoberyl (cat’s eye)
  • Chemistry: BeAl2O4 (beryllium aluminum oxide)
  • Color: Emerald in daylight, ruby in UV light (more commonly bluish-green and purplish-red)
  • Refractive Index: 1.746-1.755 (doubly refractive)
  • Moh’s Hardness: 8.5 (strong and durable)

Alexandrite Gemstone Quality Factors

The value of an alexandrite gemstone is significantly influenced by the intensity of its colors. The more vibrant and deep the green and red hues, the higher the esteem and value of the stone. Ideally, the color change should be dramatic—a full switch from one saturated color to another—rather than a subtle shift. This stark contrast in colors, particularly when both are rich and vivid, is rare and increases the gemstone’s worth.

Alexandrite is generally sold in sizes less than one carat due to its rarity and high demand. Shoppers should be cautious of larger stones being offered at unusually low prices, as these may not be genuine. In terms of clarity, while fewer inclusions generally enhance a gem’s value, needle-like inclusions in alexandrite can create a desirable cat’s-eye effect, adding to its allure and value.

On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, alexandrite ranks quite high, indicating that it is durable enough to withstand regular wear and tear. This holds true for both naturally mined stones and those grown hydrothermally, which mimic the gem’s physical properties and are also robust.

Alexandrite Gemstone Treatments

While there are methods to enhance the clarity of alexandrite, such treatments are not commonly practiced, and their effectiveness remains a subject of debate. Generally, these modifications do not significantly improve the stone’s quality, aside from possibly filling fractures with oil to enhance appearance. Natural, untreated alexandrite is highly valued for its rarity, and maintaining its unaltered state can significantly increase its desirability and market value. Collectors and enthusiasts often seek out these pristine specimens for their purity and natural beauty.

How To Take Care Of Alexandrite Gemstones

Due to its high ranking of 8.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, alexandrite is quite resilient to everyday wear and tear, showing good resistance to heat and light. Cleaning this gemstone is straightforward; simply use warm, soapy water and a soft cloth to polish it, ensuring you avoid scratches during the cleaning process. This low-maintenance care routine makes alexandrite an excellent choice for regular wear in jewelry.

Alexandrite Gemstone Facts

The unique color change of alexandrite, known as “the alexandrite effect,” is due to excited electrons within the stone’s chromium ions. These ions emit light as they absorb UV light, a process that is so distinct it was named specifically after alexandrite. Although other gemstones like garnets and sapphires also display similar color change properties, they do not have this phenomenon named after them.

To optimize the color saturation and enhance the dramatic shift between colors, alexandrite is often given a mixed cut. This style includes a wider table and a steeper pavilion, enhancing the gemstone’s brilliance and shine. This cutting technique contributes to the stone’s visual appeal and its overall market value, making alexandrite often more expensive than diamonds due to its rarity and the complex conditions required for its formation.

Alexandrite Gemstone FAQs

Where Is Alexandrite Found?

Although originally discovered in Russia, where it is now seldom found, alexandrite remains available but rare in several parts of the world. Today, notable sources of this fascinating gemstone include Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Brazil, and several countries in East Africa such as Madagascar, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. These regions continue to produce valuable alexandrite, maintaining the global interest and rarity of this unique gem.

What Color Is Alexandrite?

Alexandrite’s captivating kaleidoscopic effect, which typically shifts between dark green and raspberry red, makes it highly sought after. However, the intense color change that once defined high-quality alexandrite has become rarer over time. Nowadays, subtler shifts from green-“ish” to red-“ish” are considered acceptable, and the gem may display a range of intermediate hues. The most common color transitions now seen in alexandrite include bluish-green to purple, green to purplish pink, and yellowish-green to brownish purple, reflecting a broad spectrum of colors within a single stone.

Is Alexandrite A Birthstone?

Yes, alexandrite is recognized as the beautiful June birthstone, alongside the equally stunning pearl and moonstone. It is particularly favored as Gemini jewelry, symbolizing energy and joy. Additionally, alexandrite is celebrated as the gem for the 55th wedding anniversary, marking it as a stone of significant sentimental value for long-lasting unions.

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