The Color Changing Birthstone!
Alexandrite is a birthstone for June, along with pearl and moonstone. Because of its dual color properties, it neatly coincides with the dual nature of June’s Gemini Astrological sign. Alexandrite is also the gem for the 55th wedding anniversary.
It is claimed that Alexandrite was discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains on Czar Alexander II 18th birthday in 1834. However, that history is debated. It was discovered in Russia, sometime during the 1830’s, though probably not on Czar Alexander II’s birthday and probably not by the Finnish mineralogist credited with it. Because it was discovered in Russia and because it does change from green to red – the two colors of the Russian flag – naming the stone after Alexander was still a reasonable decision. The first name proposed for it was “diaphanite,” a combination of the two Greek words di meaning “two” and phan, meaning “to appear.”
What is Alexandrite?
Alexandrite is a rare variety of Chrysoberyl, a beryllium aluminum oxide crystal. It is related to the yellowish transparent chrysoberyl and chatoyant or cat’s-eye chrysoberyl. The reason for its rarity is a result of its chemical makeup; alexandrite can only form when aluminum and beryllium combine with trace elements like iron, titanium and, most importantly, chromium – which causes alexandrite’s color change. The likelihood of the rare element chromium, which is very rarely found in nature, being in the right place to combine with aluminum and beryllium under exactly the right conditions is extremely rare.
Where is Alexandrite mined?
Alexandrite was originally found in the Ural Mountains in Russia in the 1830’s. Since that period of time, the Russian mines have been closed and several other around the world have been opened. They can be found in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Burma, Brazil, Madagascar, India, and even in the United States. Each mine produces specific types and colors of Alexandrite which helps in identifying the types and qualities of each stone.
The most common color characteristic is the traditional green or bluish-green in daylight or bright fluorescent light that changes to raspberry-red or purplish-red in incandescent light. Depending on the mine that created it, the stones can have grey or blue undertones to yellow green and brown. Alexandrite can also exhibit the phenomenon of chatoyancy or the “cat’s-eye effect” especially when cut en cabochon. It all depends on the distribution of the chromium displacement within the individual stones and which mine it came from. Most Alexandrite with the emerald and bluish-green having grey and blue undertones come from Indian mines. Stones with green to brownish tones are from the Brazilian Gem Mines. South Africa and Madagascar produce stones that are yellow green but most tend toward grey. The most vibrantly colored stones, and the most valuable, come from the Samunda Gem Mines in India.
Because of its color change, alexandrite has sometimes been referred to as “Emerald by day and Ruby by night.”
Folklore and Metaphysical Attributes
Key words: Joy, wisdom, release of sorrow.
Elements: Wind, Water
Chakras: Heart (4th), Third Eye (6th), Crown (7th)
In current metaphysical thought, using alexandrite in meditation, in stone layouts, or in jewelry can stimulate a harmonic opening of the heart chakra, third eye and crown chakras, in which the three operate as an integrated whole.
The theory is this: All stones have vibrational connections. Depending on the chemical makeup of the stones and their crystalline alignments, these vibrations relate to different areas of the human aura or the human vibrations. By using stones to help align these vibrations, you can help your body to create and maintain better health.
Alexandrite has a vibrational connection to the Source energies of the Higher Dimensions. Meaning, that it is a stone of high wisdom and heart energy which can help us to see the truth in our lives and accept that truth with spiritual love and acceptance. It is also a powerful stone for stimulating the intuitive and psychic senses at the same time opening the heart to Divine Love. It assists one in resonating with these frequencies and using them to gather knowledge for the growth of the self or others while sharing this knowledge from the heart. It can also facilitate the recovery of afterlife information and the Akashic records.
By resonating with this stone, it may help to assist you in dealing with issues of not being able to receive love or energy from others. It can help you to learn to trust your own intuition and guidance and open you up to receiving Divine knowledge and love. Through it, you can learn to experience joy on all levels.
Alexandrite stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands and opens the crown through the heart chakras. It stimulates the brain and assists in balancing brain function. However, alexandrite is mainly a spiritual healing stone and it best used in assisting those with emotional issues rather than physical ones.
Value: What to look for when buying
Ultimately, when you are looking for an Alexandrite to buy, you will need to know what makes the one you are looking at valuable. For this we have to go back to the basics for all gemstones, Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight.
The most-prized alexandrites show a strong color change in day and incandescent light, with moderately strong color saturation. This means that the green color in daylight needs to strongly contrast with the red color in incandescent light. And both colors need to be well distributed through-out the stone.
Alexandrites are a type II gemstone, which means they are expected to show some inclusions to the unaided eye. However, there is a dramatic rise in value for stones with few, or hard to see inclusions especially when combined with a deep saturation of color. And if you find a stone with parallel needle-like inclusions that create a cat’s-eye phenomenon, they are even more valuable.
One of the most important characteristics is the cut of the stone. To bring out the best color in the stone, cutters will orient the gem to show the strongest color through the crown and then used mixed cuts such as brilliant-cut crowns and step-out pavilions to bring out the best refractive characteristics to create more life in the stone.
Most alexandrites are small, weighing less than one carat. Larger sizes and better qualities rise in price dramatically due to their rarity.
A few things to remember:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Natural alexandrite is rare and valuable. An inexpensive stone with a strong color change is likely to be simulated.
- Always work with a jeweler you trust. Judging the quality of alexandrite requires expertise. Look for gemological credentials. A jeweler who understands the complexities of alexandrite will welcome the challenge to find a stone that is perfect for you!
- If you are still in doubt, get a lab report. For significant purchases, an independent lab report can confirm that the alexandrite you are buying is natural.
- Don’t expect your stones to match perfectly! Creating pairs or groupings of alexandrite is extremely challenging due to the very rare nature of these stones. Matching size, shape, color, and color change is particularly difficult.
It is best to clean your alexandrite with warm soapy water in between your visits to the jeweler for a deeper cleaning and inspection.
The bottom line in picking the right alexandrite for you is to choose the stone that catches your eye and fits into your budget. These are very durable stones with a hardness of 8.5 on the Moh’s hardness scale. Only the diamond and the corundum are harder than an alexandrite! And because of this durability, alexandrite is an excellent stone for rings and mountings that will be worn daily. And they are an excellent substitute for the traditional June birthstone, Pearl.
Alexandrite. (2014, January 1). Alexandrite. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.gia.edu/alexandrite#buyers-guide
Alexandrite | Gemopedia. (2014, January 1). Alexandrite Gemstone Information & Education. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.jtv.com/library/alexandrite-gemopedia.html
Hall, J. (2003). Beryl: Chrysoberyl. The crystal bible: a definitive guide to crystals (). Old Alresford: Godsfield ;.
Simmons, R., & Ahsian, N. (2007). Alexandrite. The book of stones: who they are & what they teach (Rev. ed., ). East Montpelier, Vt.: Heaven and Earth Pub. ;.
Originally published for Jewelry by Morgan in June, 2014.