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Alexandrite

Alexandrite and Diamond Ring.

Alexandrite, a chrysoberyl variety, possesses a distinct change of color when viewed under different (incandescent and fluorescent) light sources. The change in color is caused by trace amounts of chromium and vanadium. The amounts of these minor trace elements in the chrysoberyl lattice may vary depending on geographical location. This extraordinary gemstone was discovered in 1834 in the Russian Ural mountain range and named in honor of the future Russian Tsar Alexander II as it was discovered on his birthday. The finest examples of alexandrite exhibit a color change from an amethyst like purplish-red in incandescent light to a teal emerald green in daylight (or fluorescent light). The famous mineralogist George F. Kunz (1856-1932), chief gemologist and vice-president to Tiffany & Co., popularized this rare gemstone in the western hemisphere. Although there have not been many alexandrites found in Russia during the last century, the high quality of stones from that deposit set the standard of fineness by which all others are judged.

Today most gem quality material comes from Brazil and the finest stones have a color change from a lively bright purplish-red to bluish-green. Other deposits are located in India, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Alexandrite in sizes over 3 carats are very rare, although a 60 carat crystal has been found in Sri Lanka. Prices of fine quality alexandrite are on par with its rarity.

Alexandrite is the anniversary gemstone for the 55th year. Because of the rarity of alexandrite, genuine stones are often substituted with a variety of synthetic sapphire that exhibits a slight color change from blue to purple.

 

As alexandrite is a fairly recent find it does not have a widespread talismanic use. In Russia, alexandrite is often associated with luck and prosperity and an ability to aid in problems with the nervous system, spleen, pancreas & testicles. Alexandrite is also associated with several mystical properties, including reinforcing one’s self-esteem and balancing positive and negative energy.

Gemological Information for Alexandrite

  
Color:Red and Green (Color Change)
Crystal Structure:Orthorhombic
Refractive Index:1.746-1.755
Durability:Excellent
Hardness:8.5
Family:Chrysoberyl
Similar Stones:There are Some Other Stones which Exhibit an Alexandrite Effect: Natural and Synthetic Sapphire, Garnet, Synthetic Spinel, Zultanite (Diaspore), Synthetic Cubic Zirconia
Treatments:None Known
Country of Origin:Russia, Brazil, Burma, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania And Rhodesia

Alexandrite Care

  
Ultrasonic Cleaning:Safe
Steam Cleaning:Safe
Warm Soapy Water:Safe
Chemical Attack:No Reaction
Light Sensitivity:Stable
Heat Sensitivity:Stable

More Information

Gems & GemologyThe Quarterly Journal of the Gemological Institute of America.

G&G Article Index: Alexandrite

  • Spring 1949, The Origin of Alexandrite Color Change, p. 143, 3pp.
  • Spring 1959, A 45 ct., a 12 ct., and a 50 ct. Alexandrite, p. 264, 1p.
  • Winter 1963, A Cat’s-Eye Alexandrite, p. 104, 2pp.
  • Winter 1972, Synthetic Alexandrite, Introduced to the Market by Creative Crystals, Inc., Danville, Calif., p. 102, 3pp.
  • Winter 1974, A New Synthetic Alexandrite by the Czochralski Method, p. 367, 3pp.
  • Fall 1976, Alexandrite from Lake Manyara, Tanzania, by Gübelin, p. 203, 11 pp., with Bibliography