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Alexandrite: beautiful and mysterious

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018 at 6:10 pm by Chelsea


The birthstone for the month of June is Alexandrite (along with the Pearl).  It is also the stone for the 55th year of marriage.  It is a fairly modern stone as well as extremely rare.  It was first discovered in the 19th century so it doesn't share in the ancient history and lore of other gems.

A story of how it was discovered goes like this:  Russian miners were working in the Ural mountains (in 1830) collecting emeralds.  A miner gathered what he thought were emeralds and took them back to camp.  In the light of the campfire the stone took on a brilliant shade of red.  In the morning the miners saw that the stones were green again in the light!  Although they were confused, they realized they had found a new and mysterious gem.

The name Alexandrite comes from the fact that it was discovered on Prince Alexander II of Russia's birthday.  In 1839 the stones were recognized and named Alexandrites because the stones appeared green and red, the same colors as Old Imperial Russia's military colors.  The stone became the national stone of Tsarist Russia, becoming one of the most prized gemstones amongst Russian Aristocracy.  However, the abundance of Alexandrite in Russia did not last forever.  It was all mined out during the 19th century.  With the thinking that the gems were headed toward extinction, even the larger deposits were found in Ceyland (now Sri Lanka) and Brazil.

Tiffany Company had a large reserve of Alexandrite and it cornered the market on the stone for decades.  For much of the 20th century there were no new discoveries of the mineral and it became very rare.  Then in 1987, a new find was made in Hernatita, Minas Gerais, Brazil.  In 1993 another major find was made on the border of Tanzania and Mozambique.

Alexandrite is a variety of the mineral Chrysoberyl.   What makes it different is the presence of not only iron and titanium but also chromium.  This combination of elements results in the green color of the gemstone.   Alexandrite can almost be emerald color but is more often yellowish green or brownish green.  The most appreciated shades of green of alexandrite can be described as "emerald, grass, splendid or elegant and red shade may be described as "ruby,columbine, garnet, raspberry or fiery.  The more opaque the color, the more expensive the stone.

The most dramatic characteristic of Alexandrite is the ability to change color if exposed to a light source.  This change is called Pleochroism.  Under light that is rich in red rays, such as candlelight or artificial light, the stone turns red or reddish.  The most valuable Alexandrite are brilliant green and change to a fiery red under light.

Alexandrite is usually found in sizes smaller than five carats.  It is a hard, durable stone rating a 8 1/2 on the hardness scale.  It is surpassed in hardness only by the diamond and corundum.  Because of this it can be one of the most rare gems and costliest.

We hope you can consider this gem for your personal jewelry.  Stop by Swede's and get more education and demonstration of this beautiful stone.