Alexandrite, birthstone for June, is the most exciting and rarest of gemstones. This magical gem has a naturally occurring colour change from red to green in different light sources. Due to this fascinating colour change, Alexandrite has been given the moniker “Emerald by day, Ruby by night.”
The spectacular Alexandrite stone has been treasured by royal aristocrats and gem lovers alike, with its hidden mysteries unearthed by science and the physics of light. Let’s explore why June’s birthstone changes colour, the lore of this beautiful gem, and why Alexandrite is more expensive than diamonds.
The History of Alexandrite: Russian Symbolism and Royalty
The Alexandrite stone was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1830. As luck would have it, this was also the Russian leader Czar Alexander II’s birthday and therefore was named in his honour. What a birthday present!
The lore goes that a miner, working alone in the mountains collecting emeralds, gathered some green stones and took them back to camp at the end of his long day. As night fell and the fire crackled and grew, he pulled the green rocks from his pocket to show his fellow miners – and the stones shone a brilliant red in the flame’s light! The miner was mystified, as when they awoke in the gentle glow of morning light, the stone was green again.
Because these incredible stones appeared green and red, the same colours as the Old Imperial Russian Military, the Alexandrite stone became the national gemstone of Russia. Highly prized amongst their aristocracy, Alexandrite was, at this time, only found in Russia.
Where is Alexandrite found today?
Throughout the 1900s, almost all of the Russian Alexandrite deposits were depleted. Just as it looked like these prized gems were heading to extinction, deposits were unearthed in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). It is currently mined in minimal amounts in Brazil, Sri Lanka, India and East Africa.
What causes the Alexandrite stone to change colour?
Alexandrite’s formation is an incredibly rare phenomenon. This rare variety of chrysoberyl will only form when aluminium and beryllium combine with elements of iron, titanium and, most importantly, chromium. Chromium causes the colours of Alexandrite to shift with different types of light.
This is due to the complex way the mineral absorbs light waves. Alexandrite will show a pretty green in daylight and transform to red with a purplish hue in incandescent light, such as from a lamp or candlelight.
How much is an Alexandrite gemstone worth?
Because of the limited mining deposits across the globe, the rarity of this extraordinary gemstone causes the price to spike for high-quality Alexandrites.
On average, medium to top-quality certified Alexandrites can fetch prices three times higher than the same-sized diamond. According to the IGS, the highly prized top-grade Russian and Brazilian beauties can be $50,000 to $70,000 per carat.
This extremely rare gem will be ideal if you want to add a bespoke touch to your next jewellery piece. With the gemstone’s unique colour change, an Alexandrite ring will enchant and delight during the day and at night.
How can you tell that an alexandrite gemstone is a fake?
Beware of cheap Alexandrite stones! Imitation Alexandrites are widely prevalent in the market. The majority of created Alexandrite stones are actually synthetic Ruby or Sapphires that have been infused with either chromium or vanadium to imitate the colour change effect.
But don’t worry; these are easily identifiable. Imitation Alexandrite will generally have a blue-to-purple colour change.
Is lab created Alexandrite valuable?
More tricky to detect will be lab-grown Alexandrite. Synthetic Alexandrite has been available in the jewellery industry since the 1960s, and the process is quite expensive. While their price tag is nowhere near as costly as the natural counterpart, they can still set you back a few hundred dollars.
There is good news, though; a qualified gemmologist can determine its authenticity, and purchasing from a reputable jeweller is always best.
Our qualified gemmologists are always here to help with stone identification. If you have an heirloom piece and need to figure out the gemstone or want to create your next Alexandrite jewellery piece, make an appointment with our expert team.