Alexandrite is the third birthstone for June. It is one of the world’s most prized gems. It is a color-changing gem of the chrysoberyl family. In daylight or fluorescent light it is bluish-green and in incandescent light it is purplish-red. Alexandrite was first discovered in 1830 in an emerald mine in the Ural Mountains of Russia. It soon became the national gem of Russia since red and green were the colors of Imperial Russia’s flag. It was named after the empire’s Czar Alexander II in honor of the prince’s sixteenth birthday. Since it is such a recent find in the gem world there is no historic lore or myth associated with alexandrite.
The color-changing characteristic distinguishes alexandrite from other chrysoberyl varieties. The finest alexandrite colors are a grass green and a ruby red. These colors prompted the romantic description of alexandrite as “emerald by day and ruby by night”. Fine alexandrite over a carat is quite rare and can command prices higher than ruby or sapphire.
The original source in Russia has been mined out. Today the major sources for alexandrite are Sri Lanka and Brazil. The Sri Lanka gems are not as grass green and the red has a bit of brown in it. The Brazilian gemstones are more of a green and a red similar to the original find in Russia. Alexandrite is also found in Burma, Madagascar, and Tanzania. Alexandrite is rarely found over 1.00ct. in size. It is relatively hard gem suitable for all types of jewelry.
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