CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

The Alexandrite Gemstone

5 minute read

To be classified as a gemstone, a crystal must contain three very important attributes: beauty, rarity, and durability. Upon initial examination, a gemstone’s inherent properties are identified – color, hardness, refractive index, and overall crystal form – in order to classify a gemstone.

Alexandrites, a variety of the Chrysoberyl mineral species, are counted among the rarest gemstones in the world

The Alexandrite gemstone, a variety of the Chrysoberyl mineral species is extremely rare, and is counted among the rarest gemstones in the world.

Of all gemstones, the Alexandrite remains one of the rarest and most sought after. As a variety of the chrysoberyl mineral species, the Alexandrite stone is perhaps the rarest variety and contains a complex crystal structure that offer it unique capabilities, such as its characteristic color-change qualities. Its scarcity is unsurpassed, and its visual appeal is all the more attractive. Read more to learn about the history, lore, and technical aspects of this magnificent gemstone.

 

HISTORY & LORE

 Map of Russia, Depicting the Ural Mountain Range - Detail


Map of Russia, Depicting the Ural Mountain Range - Detail

Compared to other gemstones, the Alexandrite variety was discovered fairly recently – the decade of 1830, to be exact. The first deposit was found buried deep within the iconic Ural Mountain range in Western Europe. It is generally accepted that this first deposit was stumbled upon by French mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskol (1792-1866). Initially, Nordekskol thought he’d come upon an emerald, as not only was the gemstone a green hue, but was found close to an emerald mine also in the Ural Mountain range.

Upon closer examination, it was concluded that an entirely new mineral variety had been discovered. Quickly, the state of Russia erupted in excitement and the stone was promptly named after the young heir apparent to the throne, Tsar Alexander II. This historic finding captivated the country: not only was this a new gemstone discovery, but the jewel was a symbol of national pride as it mirrored the military colors of imperial Russia: red and green. More importantly, the Alexandrite was seen a very closely linked to royalty, almost immediately after its discovery. Because it found close to the Tsar apparent's birthday, but the Tsar consequently claimed all subsequent findings of the stone.

Tsar Alexander II, for whom the Alexandrite gemstone is named

Tsar Alexander II, for whom the Alexandrite gemstone is named

[callout] (at the start) The Alexandrite was initial discovered in Russia, in the Ural Mountain range, and was named for the young heir apparent, Tsar Alexander II[/callout]

However, the great Ural Mountain range Alexandrite deposits didn’t last forever, as its mines were soon depleted. In recent years, deposits have been found all over the world: Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil. While these deposits offer exciting new opportunities for Alexandrite ownership and examination, the original Alexandrite’s from the Ural Mountains remain the benchmark for Alexandrite color and quality.

COLOR CHANGE

To be classified as phenomenal gem, a gemstone must possess a quality of an unusual optical effect. In other words, a phenomenal gem will possess and display a special effect when its exposed to and interacts with different types of light. These optical effects are rare, and quite unusual, in the gemstone market and many are highly sought after. Some effects can be very subtle, while others can be incredibly striking or easily noticed.

There exists a variety of gemstones that are classified as phenomenal. Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye, for example, displays a narrow axis along its face-up appearance when the stone is properly oriented that resembles the slit pupil of a cat’s eye. Other gemstones can display a phenomenon known as asterism, an optical effect similar to cat’s eye, that resembles a shimmering star.

Of all the optical effects a gemstone can possess, alexandrite’s color change abilities prove to be the rarest and most remarkable, often called the “alexandrite effect.” Essentially, a color change phenomenon requires that the basic body of the gemstone changes when the mineral is exposed to different light. For the alexandrite, the broad color change is from green to red. Typically the Alexandrite displays a green hue in natural light, and a red hue in incandescent light.  However, since every gemstone is unique in its own and possesses a unique set of characteristics, the color change ranges in different hues. Therefore, the color range that a color-change Alexandrite can possess ranges from yellow-green to blue green, encompassing every hue in between.

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Typically, an Alexandrite with a strong color change will exhibit a green-related in natural light

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An Alexandrite with a strong color change will exhibit a red-related hue in incandescent light

While there exists a classic range for the Alexandrite color, the ideal color rests between that of a medium tone (a stone that isn’t too dark or too light) and high saturation, meaning its color is vivid and bright. Those alexandrites with the very best color change show off a rich, emerald green to a remarkable ruby-like red.

IN TODAY'S MARKET

Today, the Alexandrite remains an extremely sought-after rare gemstone and those from Russian command the highest values. Alexandrites found over 2 carats are even rarer. Combined with an ideal color change, a large size Alexandrite and Alexandrite engagement rings can command an unsurpassed value and desirability.

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