Alexandrite – the magic of changing colours – Emerald By Day, Ruby By Night

This rare gemstone is named after the Russian tsar Alexander II (1818-1881), the very first crystals having been discovered in April 1834 in the emerald mines near the Tokovaya River in the Urals. The discovery was made on the day the future tsar came of age. Although alexandrite is a relatively young gemstone, it certainly has a noble history. Since it shows both red and green, the principal colours of old Imperial Russia, it inevitably became the national stone of tsarist Russia.

gemstones, alexandrite, changing colours

The magic of changing colours

The most sensational feature about this stone, however, is its surprising ability to change its colour. Green or bluish-green in daylight, alexandrite turns a soft shade of red, purplish-red or raspberry red in incandescent light. This unique optical characteristic makes it one of the most valuable gemstones of all, especially in fine qualities.


Nowadays not only from Russia
Like many other gemstones, alexandrite emerged millions of years ago in a metamorphic environment. But unlike many others, its formation required specific geological conditions. The chemical elements beryllium (a major constituent in chrysoberyl) and chromium (the colouring agent in alexandrite) have contrasting chemical characteristics and do not as a rule occur together, usually being found in contrasting rock types. Not only has Nature brought these contrasting rock types into contact with each other, but a lack of the chemical element silica (the second most common element in the Earth’s crust) is also required to prevent the growth of emerald. This geological scenario has occurred only rarely in the Earth’s history and, as a result, alexandrite crystals are very scarce indeed.

Russia has remained the primary source of alexandrite since gems from the mines of the Urals became available on the market. When the Russian deposits were thought to have been exhausted, interest in the unique colour miracle decreased – especially since alexandrites from other mines hardly ever displayed the coveted colour change. But the situation changed dramatically in 1987, when alexandrites were discovered in a place called Hematita in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Brazilian alexandrites showed both a distinctive colour change and good clarity and colour. Thus the somewhat dulled image of the miraculous stone received another boost. The colour of the Brazilian stones is admittedly

not as strong a green as that of Russian alexandrite, but the colour change is clearly discernible. Today Hematita is one of the most important deposits of alexandrite in economic terms.   Alexandrites are also obtained from sources in Sri Lanka, but the hue of these stones compares less than favourably with that of the Uralian alexandrites. They appear green in daylight and a brownish red in artificial light. The Tunduru area in southern Tanzania has also produced some outstanding specimens since the mid-1990s. Alexandrites are also found in India, Burma, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. Although this stone is still considered a rarity, specialised gemstone dealers do stock it, especially since improved trade relationships between Russia and the rest of the world have ensured a better supply of Russian alexandrites to the market.

information taken from: http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14

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