One of the most unique gemstones available, alexandrite is known for its ability to change color when viewed under different light sources. Known for being an emerald by day and ruby by night, alexandrite transitions from day to night, making it a versatile gemstone to have in your collection.
Alexandrite is extremely rare and can be very valuable. For those lucky enough to own one, alexandrite is a genuinely eye-catching gemstone.
Let’s take a look at what makes alexandrite an excellent jewelry choice in this guide to alexandrite.
- Alexandrite History – A Rare Stone
- What Causes Alexandrite’s Color Changing Properties?
- Alexandrite 4Cs
- How Does Color Affect the Value of Alexandrite?
- Synthetic (Lab-Created) Alexandrite
- Alexandrite Imitations to Watch Out For
- Alexandrite Rings
- Taking Care of Alexandrite Jewelry
- Alexandrite Symbolism and Meaning
- Where Can I Buy Alexandrite Jewelry?
Alexandrite History – A Rare Stone
Alexandrite was named after Tsar Alexander II of Russia, where it was first discovered in the Ural Mountains. Discovering that the stone had the special ability to change colors depending on the kind of illumination it was exposed to, green in sunlight and red in lamplight, the stone became the national stone of tsarist Russia whose military colors were green and red.
Around the end of the 1900’s, alexandrite deposits in Russia were almost exhausted, which made the stone rare and precious. It had become one of the most prized gems amongst Russian royalty.
Later on, deposits were found in Brazil and Sri Lanka, and as a result alexandrite grew popular globally. Alexandrite deposits were found again in in Brazil, Tanzania, and Mozambique. They were highly valued because they had become very rare.
What Causes Alexandrite’s Color Changing Properties?
Alexandrite is the most popular member of the mineral family chrysoberyl, an aluminate of beryl. The chemistry of an alexandrite crystal is quite simple.
While normal yellow or green chrysoberyl absorbs little to no light, alexandrite tends to absorb light due to its crystalline structure. A tiny number of crystals in alexandrite is replaced by chromium ions and it is this feature that intensifies the absorption of yellow light.
This small hint of chromium allows alexandrite to reflect either green or red light. The stone’s visible color will vary depending on how it is perceived by the human eye in a phenomenon known as the Alexandrite Effect. This occurs when the stone changes color from greenish to reddish.
Here is an interesting scientific fact.
Rather than a chemical reaction in the chromium compound, it is the physiological reaction in the human vision that causes the perceived color to change.
In daylight, the light is balanced, meaning the full spectrum of visible light is present. Since the human eye is more sensitive to green light, our vision responds to the green spectrum more and sees the stone as green under daylight. However, in artificial light, such as candle or lamplight, which emit less green and blue, the red color becomes more visible.
1- Evaluating Alexandrite Clarity
It’s critical to evaluate the clarity of alexandrite to ensure that there are no visible inclusions in the stone.
For alexandrite gems, clarity matters less than the effect of its color (which we will discuss in detail below). What makes these stones valuable is their ability to change color.
So, an alexandrite that has a 100 percent change from green to red is more valuable than an eye clean piece with only slight color change. While clarity is important, it takes second place to color.
2- Evaluating Alexandrite Cut
As with any gemstone exhibiting pleochroism, alexandrite poses a challenge to cutters. They have to ensure that both colors of the stone will appear face up when illuminated.
Alexandrite is typically cut into shapes known as mixed cuts. These contain brilliant cut crowns and step-cut pavilions.
For alexandrite with many flaws and inclusions, the cat’s eye cabochon makes for a good cut. This type of cut exhibits the alexandrite’s beautiful reflection of light coming from the cat’s eye effect.
3- Alexandrite Carat Weight
As mentioned above, alexandrite is very rare since there are only limited deposits in the world. The largest known Alexandrite originated in Sri Lanka and weighs about 65.7 carats. Most alexandrite on the market doesn’t weigh more than 1 carat.
If you want to purchase an alexandrite but are on a budget, there are two ways to go about it.
First, you can purchase a heavier, larger alexandrite with less color change. That way you have the size but not so much the magical Alexandrite Effect.
Second, you can go for a smaller one that exhibits a larger scale of color difference, compromising size for color change. Remember that the stone’s distinct quality is always the color change.
4- Evaluating Alexandrite Color
It goes without saying that the most unique and important attribute of an alexandrite is its color. As a rule of thumb, the higher the saturation of a colored stone, the higher the value.
However, in terms of alexandrite, it’s not just the saturation, tone, or hue that affect the value. It is also the extent of the color change. The stronger the dual colors are, the more valuable the stone becomes.
It is important to identify whether your stone is just a color-changing chrysoberyl or a true alexandrite. The table below from gemsociety.org shows the accepted color ranges for a chrysoberyl to be classified as an alexandrite.
Note that the capital letters in the color description point out the dominant color of the colors listed. Other colors, especially yellow, may fall just under color-changing chrysoberyl.
|Daylight (Sunlight)||Incandescent light|
|blue Green||orange Red|
|very slightly blue Green||Red|
|Green||slightly purple Red|
|slightly Green||Purple Red|
|yellow Green||Red purple or Purple red|
If your stone exhibits any of the two corresponding colors in the table, then it probably is an alexandrite and not merely a color-changing chrysoberyl.
How Does Color Affect the Value of Alexandrite?
To know how much your alexandrite is worth, consider these two factors: color change and color value.
A stone’s color may appear rich but may not change much. For example, a brownish green stone may change by only 50% to reddish brown. Alexandrite like this yield less value than that of a less saturated stone, say a medium green color that has a 100% color change to medium red.
The higher the percentage of change, the higher the value. The closer the colors are to pure green/pure red, the more valuable the stone becomes.
Pure greens/reds are more valuable since these can exhibit higher color contrast. The most valued stones would be the richly colored pure green/pure red pieces with 100% color change.
Synthetic (Lab-Created) Alexandrite
Alexandrite falls among the rarest and most valuable precious stones, and prices can be exorbitant for natural, high-quality stones. If, like most of us, you’re on a budget, a good alternative is a synthetic alexandrite.
True synthetic alexandrite is made of chrysoberyl crystal and grown commonly by the method called pulling.
While synthetic stones are artificially grown, they still contain the same chemical makeup and crystal structure as natural versions.
In other words, these are not FAKE stones. They are merely grown in a lab by humans. They are every bit as real as a mined alexandrite.
If buying a synthetic alexandrite, be aware that there are vendors who may try to sell a synthetic corundum (sapphire) as a synthetic alexandrite.
Bearing in mind that even synthetic alexandrite is expensive, vendors can try to hoodwink customers to make that extra profit. Always make sure that you’re buying from reputable vendors.
Alexandrite Imitations to Watch Out For
Alexandrite imitations are called simulants and are different to lab-created alexandrite. These are just look-alikes. They may look like the original thing but contain a different chemistry and crystal structure.
The cheapest simulants are made of glass or plastic and are generally easy to detect.
You can also find a “simulated” alexandrite variety that is made of corundum (sapphire) rather than chrysoberyl and infused with trace elements of vanadium, which creates the color change effect.
Synthetic sapphires usually change from a bright purple to mauve. Such stones are easy to identify because there is hardly any green in the crystal. You can make sure by having the stones tested in a gem lab. If traces of vanadium is detected and the stone shows the refractive index of a corundum (1.759-1.778) rather than chrysoberyl (1.741-1.760), it’s not synthetic sapphire.
Other color changing gemstones existing in the market are:
- Color change garnet: Color garnets, from the garnet family, can change from bronze under sunlight to light pink under incandescent light.
- Color change diaspore: Color-change diaspore, made up of aluminum oxide hydroxide, can change from yellowish green under natural light to pink or light orange under incandescent light.
- Rough andalusite: The most interesting of them is the rough andalusite, which is also known as poor man’s alexandrite. Its color shifts can range from yellow, to green and red. But rather than change in illumination, it is the viewing angle or the orientation of the crystal that causes the change in the stone’s color.
Although these stones are not imitations, they are often mistaken for the much more expensive alexandrite.
Alexandrite is an excellent option for a non-traditional engagement ring due to its durability, brilliance, and color change. Even a small alexandrite stone can be eye-catching and stands out on your finger. It’s hard enough for daily wear and exposure, and can be a heirloom piece.
1- Alexandrite Engagement Rings
Alexandrite takes center stage in engagement rings with pride. The hints of green and purple complement an array of colors, meaning that your ring will suit any outfit you wear.
While alexandrite goes well with any metal color, rose or yellow gold gives a classic, vintage look to the stone. They’re the most popular metal colors for ring settings for alexandrite. White gold (or white metals such as palladium or platinum) gives a modern look to alexandrite.
Ensure that the metal of the setting is hard enough to hold the alexandrite – we recommend gold, platinum, or palladium.
2- Alexandrite Claddagh Rings
Claddagh rings are a perfect gift for a loved one, whether it be a promise ring or an engagement ring. This is a traditional Celtic design where two hands combine to hold a heart on which rests a crown.
The hands represent friendship, the heart symbolises love and the crown stands for loyalty. What better way to express your feelings than with this meaning-packed symbol.
3- Alexandrite Birthstone Rings
Alexandrite is the birthstone for June (it shares this honor with pearls). If you are a June baby, you might want to consider an alexandrite birthstone ring.
There are several style options for birthstone rings, but most people choose dainty, smaller ring designs for regular wear.
4- Alexandrite Anniversary Rings
If you are one of those very few lucky people who are celebrating a 55th year of marriage, Alexandrite is the gemstone that represents that special milestone.
There are unique settings that go beautifully with alexandrite, giving you endless options. As a gemstone that looks great on everyone, there is a wide range of masculine and stately alexandrite rings available on the market for men as well.
Taking Care of Alexandrite Jewelry
Alexandrite ranks at 8.5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness, which means that it’s highly resistant to scratches and damage. It’s suitable for daily wear and exposure.
Regular polishing is a good idea, as it removes dust and any residue on the surface that can affect its luster.
When your alexandrite jewelry is dirty, simply using soap, warm water, and a soft brush or soft cloth to wash it is enough to restore its luster. Wash it gently and make sure to rinse the soap away properly.
Because of their hardness, they are safe to be used in ultrasonic cleaners. Avoid exposure to bleach or other harsh chemicals. It’s advised to remove alexandrite when doing strenuous activities with your hands.
While there is no special care required for alexandrite stones, storage might be a problem as softer stones may be easily scratched or scraped by the alexandrite. Wrapping alexandrite in a soft cloth before storing prevents it from damaging other stones and keeps it safe from harder materials like diamonds or sapphires.
Alexandrite Symbolism and Meaning
Alexandrite is considered a lucky stone, and represents luck, good fortune, and intellect. Because of alexandrite’s ability to change from green to red, it is often associated with balance.
It is believed that an alexandrite allows interaction between the physical world (green) and the spiritual world (red), from which its healing powers come.
By bridging the gap between a person’s body and spirit, alexandrite can alter the flow of the chakra in the wearer’s body to give room for strength, peace, and self-confidence.
The stone is ideal for people who need physical healing, including those who need surgery, have neurological disorders, or are experiencing a coma, where the person’s mind is believed to be detached from the body.
In ancient Russia, where the first alexandrite stone was discovered, alexandrite is thought to bring good fortune and romance, and the balance of joy from tangible and intangible things.
It allows you to appreciate the world around you while reminding you of your purpose in the world.
*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Where Can I Buy Alexandrite Jewelry?
Alexandrite’s rarity and high value can make finding one at your local store difficult. By taking your search online, you will have more options and competitive prices.
However, if buying online, ensure that you are buying from a top-rated vendor with a proven track record. Most jewelry retailers don’t offer alexandrite jewelry, and most alexandrite on the market is synthetic.
We recommend starting your search on Etsy and Amazon as these platforms have options to suit various budgets and styles.
Etsy has a range of alexandrite and synthetic alexandrite jewelry on offer, from incredibly valuable antiques to synthetic jewelry that costs just a few dollars.
As it is one of the biggest online retailers worldwide, it’s not surprising that you can find all kinds of alexandrite jewelry here. The range is extensive.
Of course, since every vendor on Etsy and Amazon have their own policies and rules, do your due diligence. Search for stores with good after sales policies, customer service, and reviews. If purchasing authentic alexandrite, ask for an authenticity certificate.