Stone Information & Mining
With its chameleon-like qualities, it is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. Alexandrite is also a strongly pleochroic gem, which means it can show different colors when viewed from different directions. Typically, its three pleochroic colors are green, orange, and purple-red. However, the striking color change doesn’t arise from the gem’s pleochroism, but rather from the mineral’s unusual light-absorbing properties. Because of its scarcity, especially in larger sizes, alexandrite is a relatively expensive member of the chrysoberyl family. It shares its status as a June birthstone with cultured pearl and moonstone. First discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural Mountains, those deposits didn’t last forever, and now most alexandrite comes from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil.
Legend & Lore
Abundant alexandrite deposits were first discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Those first alexandrites were of very fine quality and displayed vivid hues and dramatic color change. The gem was named after the young Alexander II, heir apparent to the throne. It caught the country’s attention because its red and green colors mirrored the Imperial Russian flag. Alexandrite’s dramatic color change is sometimes described as “emerald by day, ruby by night.” Other gems also change color in response to a light-source change, but this gem’s transformation is so striking that the phenomenon itself is often called “the alexandrite effect.”
Its color can be a lovely green in daylight or fluorescent light, changing to brownish or purplish red in the incandescent light from a lamp or candle flame. This is a result of the complex way the mineral absorbs light.
Warm, soapy water is always safe for cleaning alexandrite. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe.
This information was excerpted from GIA's Gem Encyclopedia with permission from GIA.