Imperial Alexandrite – The June Birthstone

Those born in June are fortunate enough to have three birthstones to choose from: moonstone, pearl, and alexandrite.  Of these three gemstones, alexandrite is the “newest” stone to be discovered and the most exclusive (its cost and rarity rivals that of diamonds and rubies).  This week, we’re looking at this imperial gemstone, its history, and meaning.

Celebrating a June birthday, 55th wedding anniversary, or just love the color-changing alexandrite?  Give us a call at 800-798-6173 or e-mail us at info@gallerybyzantium and we’d be happy to customize one of our pieces for you!

Imperial Russia’s Gemstone

alexandrite, jewelry, tiffany

Necklace. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany & Co. 1914–15. Made in New York, New York, United States. Alexandrite, semi-precious stones, gold. Via

Like tanzanite, alexandrite is a relatively new gemstone.  It was discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830’s by a Finnish emerald miner who initially mistook the curious gem for emerald.  When looking at the stone under different light sources, he discovered that it changed colors and realized that he had discovered a new stone.

The discovery of this new stone happened to coincide with the birthday of future tsar, Alexander II and thus the gemstone bears his name.  “Because this unique gemstone changed colors from green to red—the national colors of Russia—alexandrite became Imperial Russia’s official gemstone.”

“In Russian legend, alexandrite crystal powers were thought to carry good luck, fortune and love to its owner. It is also said to carry a good omen.”

“[A]lexandrite is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that changes color from bluish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light.”  This is due to the stone’s chemical composition which combines unlikely elements, like chromium (which gives the stone its green hue), under just the right conditions. It is also a pleochroic gem, meaning that it also shows different colors viewed from different angles.  This color change has led many to describe the stone as “’emerald by day, ruby by night.'”

Large alexandrite stones are especially rare.  Most stones available on the market are fewer than two carats and are often used as secondary, accent stones.  The largest alexandrite stone weighs in at 66 carats and is housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

Unfortunately, the alexandrite deposits of Russia have since been depleted.  While the stones can be found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, and East Africa, these stones pale in comparison to bold, vivid colors of the Russian ones.  Thus, most quality gemstones can only be found in estate jewelry or antiques.

In its rarity, alexandrite is very expensive.  “In sizes up to one carat, top-quality natural gems can sell for up to $15,000 per carat. Over one carat, the prices range from $50,000 to $70,000 per carat[.]”  Synthetic, lab-grown alexandrite is available (as is a simulated variety) but these faux stones are expensive to create making them pricey on the gemstone market.  However, these synthetic stones are quite remarkable and are difficult to distinguish from the natural, real deal.

If you are fortunate enough to have a piece of alexandrite jewelry, the gemstone is quite durable (rating an 8.5 on the Mohs hardness scale).  It can be cleaned with warm water and mild soap and dried with a soft cloth.  While you should avoid contact with any harsh cleaners or chemicals, alexandrite is one of the few stones strong enough to be cleansed with ultrasonic cleaners and steam.

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Alexandrite Description –
Alexandrite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information –
The Gemstone Alexandrite –
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Alexandrite Gemstone Information –
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