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What is Alexandrite, the Birthstone for June?

What is alexandrite the chameleon of gemstones
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What is alexandrite and what makes it so unique?

One of nature’s fascinating magic tricks, alexandrite is a chrysoberyl variety that changes colors depending on the light source. In daylight, this mystic gem appears green or bluish-green while red or purplish-red appears in incandescent light. This characteristic has earned our chameleon gem the popular description, “emerald by day, ruby by night.”

The color change occurs only when chromium replaces aluminum in the mineral’s atomic structure. This phenomenon is a contributing factor to its rarity. Where normally, humans’ eye-brain system corrects for the light source, this isn’t the case for alexandrite as the latter overrides the correction mechanism of our eye-brain system. Such optical illusion is referred to as the alexandrite effect.

Alexandrite is one of the three birthstones for June and inevitably, the national stone of tsarist Russia where the old imperial Russia was known for its principal colors of red and green.

Composition properties of alexandrite
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The Alexandrite History

Ural mountains where they discovered alexandrite

Dating back to Imperial Russia, alexandrite was discovered in 1830 near the Russian Ural Mountains. Its name, according to many, came from Alexander II whose birthdate fell on the same day as the gem’s discovery. Many mistook this chameleon beauty for an emerald with its source located near the emerald mines, until they realized its color-changing ability.

A rare stone, alexandrite can only be found in small deposits. Adding to its rarity is the scarcity of supply. After mining out the Russian deposit, other small deposits in Brazil, China, India, East Africa, and Sri Lanka have been found. Still, these mines did not help in supply; therefore, driving the gem’s prices up. In fact, natural alexandrite, owing to its rarity and unique composition, is expensive; hence, lab-grown alexandrite is more widely available in the market than natural ones.

Aside from the alexandrite effect, this interesting gem exhibits more optical phenomena. It is pleochroic, meaning that it displays different hues when viewed from different directions and at the same time, trichroic. In trichroism, the gem exhibits three different colors from three different directions. In the case of alexandrite, viewers might notice green, red, or yellow-orange. However, the alexandrite effect is relatively stronger than its trichroic behavior.

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Meanings, Symbols, and Properties

Alexandrite photographed with the GemLightbox
Looking regal, this alexandrite was photographed with the GemLightbox and a smartphone

If you love change, then this gem is for you!

In old imperialist Russia, many believed that this chrysoberyl variety promotes growth while it balances one’s mind and emotion. This balancing power helps its wearer accept changes easily and adapt to the environment. Further, alexandrite symbolizes good fortune and joy and associates primarily with the heart chakra. This association makes it strongly powerful, as many believed, in emotional healing, enhancing intuition, and calming a weary soul.

In the past, many had also relied on its physical healing power. For instance, they believed that it could restore both the physical and internal energy of the person in recovery from prolonged illness. Meanwhile, crystal healing practitioners believe that it can aid pancreatic and spleen disorders. Additionally, they also believe that it could reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation.

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Famous Alexandrite

Unlike other gems with rich ancient history, this dramatic color-changing gem is pretty modern. Below are two of the iconic alexandrite specimens.

Whitney Alexandrite

One of the finest alexandrites ever found, this Whitney Alexandrite is a 17.08-carat gem from the Hematita mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil. It displays a green-blue color in daylight and appears in raspberry color in incandescent light. Its name came from the generous Coralyn Wright Whitney, an academician, and member of the Smithsonian Gemstone Collectors committee, who gifted the $13million gem to Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Sauer Alexandrite

Perhaps, the largest uncut specimen of this chameleon, this Sauer Alexandrite weighs a whopping 122,4000 carats found in Bahia, Brazil in 1967 by the visionary Jules Roger Sauer. With Sauer’s decision to keep the gem in his private collection, he displayed it in the Sauer Museum or the Museu Amsterdam Sauer in Rio de Janeiro. Sauer, a renowned gemstone and design legend, passed away at the age of 95 in 2017.

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Quality Factors of Alexandrite

Quality factors chameleon gem
Angled view of alexandrite captured with an iPhone and the GemLightbox & Turntable Set

Color

Fine alexandrite gems are those that appear bluish-green to green in daylight and red or purplish-red in incandescent light. The color saturation should not be too light or too dark because the former lacks the color intensity required to be considered fine quality and the latter lacks the brightness of a fine quality gem.

Clarity

Known for having very few inclusions. However, when the inclusion characterizes a long, thin parallel line, this inclusion can create a chatoyancy or cat’s eye effect which is similar to light bouncing off a cat’s eye. Chatoyancy makes alexandrite even more expensive.

Cut

It’s common to find a mixed-cut alexandrite. For instance, a combination of step-cut pavilions and brilliant-cut crowns. This type of cut gives the gem facets in different geometric shapes.

Carat

Small alexandrite stones in under one carat are more available than larger ones. Stones that are over five carats are very rare and expensive. In fact, alexandrite, like diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world.

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Do you have alexandrite in your inventory today?

Alexandrite is one of the many fascinating proofs of nature’s magic touch. Your customers will want it for its color-changing ability and other optical phenomena as a result of its unique behavior under different light conditions.

How do you take care of your alexandrite? Let us know in the comment section below!

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