Mobile Top Button Desktop Top Button

Alexandrite: Everything You Need to Know

The chameleon of gemstones, alexandrite appears green under the sun, but glows red under lamp light. Earning it the superhero-like costume change of “emerald by day, ruby by night,” you can hit two colors with one stone. Read on for an introduction to alexandrite, one of the world’ rarest gems.

What is alexandrite?

Think diamonds, but more precious. And sapphires, but more valuable. Actually, you can throw in rubies and emeralds, too. After all, alexandrite is often said to be “emerald by day and ruby by night” because it oscillates between dark shades of green and red.

Despite being known for this dual color shift, it’s actually now scarce in most alexandrite stones being sold. “Real” alexandrite is disappearing. And because of the way a light source affects modern lab grown gems, today’s stones can appear green, orange, and purple-red from different directions.

Most cut alexandrite weighs less than one carat because it’s so rare. Anything larger, and you’re going to have a harder time finding a decent price that doesn’t raise some eyebrows. But whatever size of alexandrite stone you’re able to acquire, you’ll fall in love at first sight and every glittery sighting after. It’s basically an ultra fabulous mood ring and we’re not going to deny how fun that is.

What is real alexandrite? Can alexandrite be lab grown?

Real alexandrite is one of the rarest gemstones, so you probably haven’t seen the stone in its true natural form. Lab created alexandrites exist. They’re “real” in that a lab mimics the chemical conditions and ingredients of alexandrite, simply speeding up the process. This process makes alexandrite more affordable, widely available, and ethical — which are all values at the core of our business.

Lab grown alexandrite is not worth as much as natural alexandrite — most natural gems don’t come close to alexandrite’s value. Lab grown alexandrite is not to be confused with “fake” alexandrite. With jewelry, there’s a difference between lab grown vs. imitation. Truly “fake” alexandrite jewelry may try to imitate the stone’s color change using corundum. Some sellers may also attempt to pass off zandrite as a version of alexandrite.

Toi Et Moi London Blue Topaz and Lab Alexandrite Cocktail Ring

Is real alexandrite hard to find?

Yes, if you want big, high-quality stones. When alexandrite was first found in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830s, there was plenty of it to go around. Now it’s few and far between. There’s a limited supply of this special gem to be mined in Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil. And by limited, we’re talking premium price.

Here’s why: that coveted color change requires an interaction between beryllium within the mineral (Chrysoberyl) and chromium impurities. But it’s actually super unusual to come across these two elements together. So even though you’re paying a “pretty” penny for that remarkable emerald-ruby crossover, you can take pride in knowing you’re wearing a natural phenomenon and one of the last remaining stones of its kind.

History of Alexandrite Gemstones

Alexandrite was named after Czar Alexander II, who freed Russia’s serfs. By the 1890s, however, alexandrite had been mined extensively in this area and was all but gone.

A rediscovery of alexandrite across the globe led to a massive resurgence of interest in this second-chance stone. Color can actually tell you where your alexandrite is from, and maybe even indicate whether it’s an imitation. The highest quality gems are green dominant, mostly found in Africa at this point. Indian stones are more blue- or grassy-green in daylight, while Sri Lankan gems are yellowish-green. Sri Lankan stones also tend to be larger, but you sacrifice the strength of color change; they’re more of a soft purple by night. Remember: color preference is always subjective, and since the true “alexandrite effect” is now hard to get your hands on, choosing your alexandrite may come down to whether you prefer “emerald by day” or “ruby by night.” For instance, Madagascan stones are more brownish vs. purplish in incandescent light. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Alexandrite Meaning

Alexandrite is the symbol of good things to come, and an abundance at that. As a rare stone, alexandrite is all about luck. Lucky people tend to be lighthearted, which summons creativity and the courage to act on intuition. And as someone with the good fortune to find the alexandrite gem, wearing it also bodes prosperity and intelligence in your life. Basically, when you feel lucky, everything starts going your way.

Alexandrite Gemstone Properties

Emerald Cut Lab Alexandrite Stud Earrings

Alexandrite Gemstone Quality Factors

Alexandrite Gemstone Treatments

While you can attempt to treat alexandrite to improve its clarity, it’s not common (and it’s debated whether it has any effect at all). Alterations to alexandrite haven’t been shown to drastically improve the stone, other than filling fractures with oil. On the other hand, “untreated” natural alexandrite is prized for its rarity, and retaining its purity adds to its value.

How to Take Care of Alexandrite Gemstones

Because Alexandrite ranks 8.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, it’s not overly sensitive. Heat, light, etc. — you’re pretty good to go as far as resistance. Warm, soapy water is all you need to polish up your stone. Use a soft cloth to avoid scratching.

Alexandrite Gemstone Facts

  1. Alexandrite’s transition between colors is attributed to excited electrons in the stone’s chromium ions. These ions get their shine on when they absorb UV light. The way the light is created from all that excess energy is literally referred to as “the alexandrite effect.” That’s how dramatic and unique this stone is: because while garnets and sapphires also experience this effect, they don’t get their own name for it.
  2. To enhance its color saturation and color change, a mixed cut is popular for an alexandrite gem. The wider table and steeper pavilion mean more shine.
  3. Alexandrite often sells for more than diamonds because it’s more elusive.

Gigi Lab Alexandrite and Baroque Cultured Pearl Earrings

Alexandrite Gemstone FAQs

Is alexandrite the rarest gemstone?

It’s definitely one of them. But no, that title of rarest gemstone belongs to painite. See our gemstones buying guide for a full list of sought-after stones.

Where is alexandrite found?

While rare, alexandrite can be found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Brazil, and East Africa (including Madagascar, Tanzania, Zimbabwe). Even though it was originally discovered in Russia, digs no longer turn up any valuable alexandrite stones in this part of the world.

What color is alexandrite?

Alexandrite’s kaleidoscopic effect between dark green and raspberry red makes it a fine gem, but it’s rare for this intense color change to occur anymore — green-”ish” to red-”ish” is now acceptable and there won’t necessarily be a shortage of colors in between. The most common color transitions for alexandrite are bluish-green to purple, green to purplish pink, and yellowish-green to brownish purple.

Is alexandrite expensive?

The price increases when the colors are heavy and the color change is more obvious. Natural one carat alexandrite gems can reach $15,000, while larger gems can boast prices of $50,000-$70,000.

How hard is alexandrite?

Alexandrite is a tough 8.5 on Moh’s hardness scale, so it won’t break easily when worn as jewelry. Its lack of cleavage means it’s safe to wear daily, including as a sturdy engagement ring. That being said, alexandrite can be scratched by objects that match or exceed its level of hardness.

Is alexandrite a birthstone?

Yes, alexandrite is a beautiful June birthstone (in the company of fellow stunners pearl and moonstone). As Gemini jewelry, it’s all about energy and joy. It’s also celebrated as the 55th wedding anniversary stone.

Shop the Story

You Might Also Like from the blog

Get Inspired

Tag us on Instagram @brilliantearth

Comments (0)