One of the most remarkable things about alexandrite is the way it changes color under varying light sources. Green in natural light, red to purple to grey in artificial light – the more marked the transition in color and the more vivid the shades, the more prized and expensive the stone.
An alexandrite of fine quality in a large size is scarcer than ruby, emerald or sapphire. The gem is rare because its creation requires the marriage of two different kinds of stone: one made from aluminium and beryllium, the other made of chrome. As conditions fostering such development during the Earth’s formation were rare, the occurrence of alexandrite is very small.
Natural alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family, a group of gems consisting of a colourless to yellow-toned chrysoberyl and a kind of cat’s eye. While all chrysoberyl contains beryllium aluminium oxide, alexandrite also contains chrome, iron and titanium. It is the chrome to which alexandrite owes its unique ability to change color. However, this is unusual. While chrome is known to give color to many stones, only in alexandrite does it allow for a change of shades.
Few examples of alexandrite were found for many years due to its scarcity. This dearth lasted until 1987 when a new find of alexandrite was uncovered in Hematita, Brazil. With this new discovery came another: that the alexandrite comes in colour combinations of red to aqua blue as well as red to green.
Despite having been expired of any deposits years ago, many still believe the best quality alexandrite was found in Russia’s Ural Mountains and any alexandrite certified to be of this origin is very highly valued among those in the trade.
While stones have been discovered around the world, specimens are said to pale in comparison to their Russian cousins, lacking the brilliant contrast between red and green tones.
Fittingly, alexandrite derives its name from the Tsar of Russia, Alexander II, who apparently celebrated his birthday on the same day that the gem was first discovered in 1830. In addition, alexandrite displays the same red and green that comprised the colors of Imperialist Russia’s flag. Because of this, it is looked upon as a gem that brings good fortune to those who wear it.
Other mystical properties assigned to alexandrite are its alleged ability to sharpen intuition and intellect by imparting new knowledge and presenting new solutions. Alexandrite is also said to promote imagination and creativity in its wearers. It can boost their self-esteem and allow them to experience heightened joy. The stone is also said to help balance one’s emotional state and enhance feelings of passion.
Healthwise, the gem is believed to be useful in helping to treat disorders of the pancreas, lymph nodes and spleen, as well as relieving the symptoms of leukaemia.
While not widely used in today’s jewellery on account of its rarity, alexandrite can be found in pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries. Master gemmologist George Kunz for Tiffany and Co. created many alexandrite pieces during these years.
(Source: Jeweller Magazine)