Even though Alexandrite is a relatively young gemstone compared to other gemstones, it has pretty impressive history nevertheless. When first discovered, the emerald miners who found it were puzzled by the color change effect that the new stone exhibited under different light conditions. By coincidence, the new stone changed its color from Green to Red, the official imperial colors of the Russian realm. Alexandrite became the national stone of Tsarist Russia.
Top gem quality Alexandrite is very rare. It is hardly ever used in modern jewelry, simply because it is very rare and priceless. You may find some of these incredibly rare pieces in antique Russian jewelry, since the Russian master jewelers simply loved Alexandrite. Tiffany's legendary master gemologists George Kunz was so captivated by Alexandrite, that he convinced Tiffany to produce a series of rings and platinum sets at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.
The most astounding feature about alexandrite is its ability to change its color. Alexandrite changes its color from fine shades of green in daylight, to a soft shade of red, purplish-red or purple-gray, under candlelight or artificial light. Under ideal light condition, Alexandrite displays a unique optical characteristic, which makes it one of the most valuable gemstones in nature, especially in finer qualities.
Alexandrite is very scarce due to its chemical composition. It is basically a Chrysoberyl, a family consisting of colorless, green or yellow Chrysoberyl, Chrysoberyl Cat's Eye and color-changing Alexandrite. The difference between Alexandrite and other Chrysoberyls is that it doesn't only contain iron and titanium, but also chrome. It is the presence of the chrome element, which accounts for the spectacular color-change. Only Chrysoberyls displaying a distinct color change may be called Alexandrite.
Alexandrite's rarity is caused by its formation. Like all other gemstones, Alexandrites materialized millions of years ago, when the earth was still a fiery mass. Two types of stones where required in order to create Alexandrite. One of these stones contributed the aluminum and beryllium elements, the other stone contributed the chrome element. These conditions occurred rarely and therefore Alexandrite crystals are very hard to come by.
The original source in the Ural Mountains ran dry several decades after its discovery in 1830. Then in 1987, a new find of alexandrite was made in Hematita, Brazil. The Brazilian Alexandrite won over even the tidiest of skeptics, both in its distinctive color change and in its good clarity and color. The somewhat forgotten image of the legendary alexandrite received another boost. Today Hematita is one of the single most economically important occurrences for Alexandrite.
Alexandrites also exist in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Alexandrites differs from the highly estimated Russian alexandrites by a slightly different shade of color: In daylight it appears blue-green, and under artificial light it will change to reddish purple or deep purple. Alexandrite is also found in India, Burma, Tasmania and Zimbabwe.
Even though alexandrite is considered a rare stone, some specialized gemstone dealers will probably carry some relatively fine pieces.
A gemstone for the savvy
Alexandrite is a stone for experts and collectors. Its rareness and high value are not obvious at first. The color change will only occur when exposed to different light sources. But if you really get involved in Alexandrite, you will be fascinated by it. You may also feel some of the mystifying magic ascribed to Alexandrite: in precarious situations it is believed to strengthen the perception of those who wear it, and help them find an innovative solution whenever logic will not provide one. Alexandrite is also believed to support creativity and inspire imagination.
Alexandrite measures 8.5 in the mohs hardness scale (10 being the hardest mineral), making it an ideal stone for everyday jewelry wear. The more intense the color change the more valuable the stone. Top quality Alexandrites weighing over 1carat are amongst the most expensive gemstones in the world, and are more rare than fine Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald. Its value mainly depend on the depth of the color change: a really fine Alexandrite should show a vivid green in daylight, and change to purple-red or deep purple in artificial light, without any trace of brown. If its origin is indeed Russian, than the piece will be considered a real rarity of great value.
Alexandrite Synthetics and Doublets (composite gemstones ).
There are several types of Alexandrite Synthetics used in jewelry these days.
The most common type is known as color change corundum , which is created in a process called flame fusion. Flame fusion is the first process used for creating synthetic gemstone and is still extremely popular today. Low production costs along side with high crystal-growth rates, insure that a large number of flame fusion gemstones are available at any given time. It is the most inexpensive crystal production method and offers very good value for money. The flame fusion method utilizes the powdered elements of a gem by fusing them together under a high temperature oxy-hydrogen flame. The elements powder melts and crystallizes in successive layers, forming a hard crystal displaying similar or better color than the natural gem. The crystal is then cut and polished to create its final appearance. In the synthetic alexandrite case, the production is done using low-grade powdered corundum (sapphire) and adding other powdered gem components and additive colors. The color change display in this case is truly spectacular.
Another alexandrite substitute is known as doublet (composite gemstone ). Alexandrite doublets consist of two parts that have been artificially joined together to give the impression of a single gemstone. The component pieces of a composite gemstone include a combination of natural, synthetic or simulate substances. The end color result is usually derived from only one of the components or from added dye within the stone's layers. Alexandrite doublets exhibit very good color change and have an amazing resemblance to the genuine article, making them a very good substitution for the real thing. There are very few sources where good quality Alexandrite doublets can be found, which makes them pretty hard to come by.