Image Credit: David Weinberg for Alexandrite.net, Step Cut Alexandrite Cushion, 26.75 cts. CC BY-SA 3.0
Alexandrite might just be one of the most interesting gems on Earth, and it’s definitely one of the rarest! June’s birthstone has the unique ability to shift its shade from a cool green-blue to a rich purple-red, depending on the light source, earning it the nickname, “emerald by day, ruby by night.” Aside from its chameleon-like coloring, Alexandrite is only found in a few specific locations in the world and in very small quantities, making it incredibly rare and valuable.
First discovered in the 1830s in Russia’s Ural Mountains, Alexandrite falls into the chrysoberyl gem family. It was named after Alexander II, the young heir to the Czar’s throne. It’s red and green hues, also the colors of the Imperial Russian Army, made it a prized stone in the Russian gem market. Alexandrite’s popularity quickly usurped the deposits in the Ural Mountains, and for over a century was nearly impossible to find elsewhere.
Fun fact: The United States has Czar Alexander II to thank for the state of Alaska, which he sold to the US in 1867.
In the 1980s, Alexandrite was first discovered outside of Russia in Brazil, and in later years was found in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. Despite these new sources, none of the mines outside of the Ural deposits produce stones with as distinct a color change as the Russian Alexandrites.
The Chrysoberyl family are also known as “cat’s eye” gems, an optical phenomena where light is reflected from the stone in a way that resembles the slit of a cat’s eye, also known as chatoyancy. Color change, much like that displayed by high quality Alexandrite, is another type of rare optical phenomena. Alexandrite is truly unique, because it can display two optical phenomena in one stone!
Image Credit: Salexmccoy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Today, Alexandrite remains an exceptionally rare and expensive gem. It is the birthstone of June (along with pearl and moonstone), as well as the commemorative stone for the 45th Wedding Anniversary. Here at ShineOn, we’re big fans of Alexandrite’s beauty, which is why we’ve made the June birthstone an Alexandrite-inspired crystal in all of our birthstone jewelry. Happy birthday to all of the June babies out there; don’t be afraid to show off your true colors, just like Alexandrite!