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​June Birthstone: Alexandrite

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For the month of June, three lovely gemstones were selected as the birthstone, Moonstone, Pearl and Alexandrite.

Photographed by David Weinberg for Alexandrite.net and released to the public domain

Alexandrite: “Emerald by day, ruby by night,” is a phrase frequently used to describe alexandrite’s most famous magic trick; color-change. Outside in daylight, it is a cool bluish mossy green, emerald or pastel green. Inside in candle light, it is a red gem, with a warm violet, ruby red, purple or raspberry tone. You can watch it change back and forth from green to red by switching from fluorescent to incandescent light. Alexandrite is a variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. A June birthstone, alexandrite also is the recognized gift for the 55th wedding anniversary.

Long associated with Russian royalty, the rare gemstone alexandrite was discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountain range in 1830. It was named after Alexander II, heir apparent to the Russian throne and presented to him in 1834 to honor his 16th birthday. Alexander II succeeded to the throne as Emperor of Russia in 1855 and was best known for emancipating Russia’s serfs in 1861. He was assassinated in 1881. Alexandrite caught the country’s attention, becoming its national gemstone because its red and green colors mirrored the national military colors of imperial Russia.

Since its discovery, alexandrite was thought to bring love, luck and good fortune, even being worn as an amulet of good fortune. Alexandrite is said to encourage romance and through the stone joy enters the lives of people with too much self-discipline. It is a reminder of our purpose in life and our origin, giving hope to those who are in despair and bringing strength.

The first alexandrite material mined in Russia displayed vivid green and red hues with dramatic color change and was rated as very fine quality. Between 1840 and 1900, Russia remained the only source of alexandrite. The central Urals were mined extensively and the deposit was thought to be nearly depleted by the turn of the 20th century, when deposits were discovered in Sri Lanka. Alexandrite is currently mined in Brazil, Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Tanzania, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. Very little of the alexandrite found in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Brazil shows a dramatic color change. Recently, alexandrite mining resumed in Russia, but only a few carats of gem quality alexandrite with a Russian origin comes to market today. Because the conditions that produce alexandrite are so unusual, experts generally agree that future new discoveries are unlikely. Ural Mountain alexandrite remains the quality standard for this amazing gemstone.

For many years, alexandrite was almost impossible to find because there was so little available. Today, fine alexandrite is most often found in period jewelry. Fine gems can be found at auction. Material with a certificate of Russian origin is still particularly valued by the trade.

Many gems are treated to improve their color or clarity, but there are no known treatments to enhance the beauty of alexandrite. The vast majority of alexandrite is under 1 carat. Faceted alexandrite over 2 carats is considered large, and over 5 carats is extremely rare. Some famous alexandrite includes:

The Whitney Alexandrite - This 17.08-carat alexandrite, a 2009 gift of Coralyn Wright Whitney, is on display at Smithsonian Institute. This stunning modified cushion cut gemstone appears as a raspberry color under incandescent light and a teal (green-blue) color in daylight. With its exceptional size, clarity, and amazing color change, this gem is one of the finest known alexandrites from the Hematita Mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil. 

Whitney Alexandrite Gemstones

Photo by Chip Clark

65.70 carat alexandrite – The Natural History Museum in London is reported to be the home to this huge faceted alexandrite which was mined in Sri Lanka. It appears as bright olive green in sunlight and brownish red in incandescent light.

65.70 Ct Alexandrite Gemstones

Photo by Chip Clark

We currently do not carry alexandrite jewelry. However, at a recent gem show, I took the following photos of an alexandrite on display to demonstrate its color change. 

alexandrite.png alexandrite1.png

Credit the American Gem Trade Association and the Gemological Institute of America.

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