Originally discovered in Russia during the reign of Czar Alexander II, alexandrite is a very unique and beautiful gemstone. Alexandrite has been called an emerald in daylight and a ruby at night. Alexandrite’s unique light absorption properties and pleochroic qualities (can show different colors when viewed from different angles) make alexandrite an exciting and beautiful gemstone. Large alexandrite with good clarity and color saturation are very rare and valuable. Alexandrite was named after Czar Alexander as green and red were the official military colors of imperial Russia, a uniform often worn by the young Czar.
Alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family. Alexandrite was originally found in Russia’s Ural mountains. Currently it is also found in Sri Lanka, East Africa and Brazil. Fine alexandrite is exceptionally rare and very valuable. Alexandrite originating from the original deposit typically presents a more precise color change and a much purer hue.
Alexandrite is quite durable with a hardness scale rating of 8.5 which is just under sapphire and above emeralds. With its orthorhombic crystal system, alexandrite presents distinct pleochroic qualities in which different hues are seen from different angles, making alexandrite a challenge to lapidaries.
Alexandrite is known for having strong color change qualities and this color change effect is known as the alexandrite effect. Color change is explained in this video from the Gemological Institute of America, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAt_SsUF4CI .
There are other color change gemstones but none have the dramatic green to red change that alexandrite presents. Chrysoberyl is the mineral family of alexandrite. Deposits found outside of Russia yield material with weaker color change and more mottled hues.
If you have inherited estate jewelry with a gemstone you do not recognize, stop by our store and we will be happy to examine and identify it. Regent Jewelers has gemological equipment on hand and can identify gemstones from every continent. There are treasures hidden all around us, and our curiosity, skill and persistence are key in discovering them.
High quality alexandrite can be found in estate pieces from the 19th century. Regent Jewelers specializes in estate jewelry and carries many great examples of 19th century craftsmanship. Make an appointment today to view our collection or stop by our store from 10 to 5, Monday through Friday.