Where did the name “Alexandrite”come from? Nils Gustaf
Nordenskiöld the Finnish mineralogist, is credited with finding
the first samples of Alexandrite material in Russian emerald
mines in the Ural Mountains. Nordenskiöld after being inspired
by the future Russian tsar Alexander’s birthday celebration , he
coining the name Alexandrite.
Alexandrite from any source is one of the world’s rarest gems. Reportedly,
this gem was discovered on Czar Alexander the Second’s birthday in Russia in
1830, and hence its name. This is one of the few gems that actually change
color. The stone appears green like an emerald in natural daylight, and ruby
red in artificial light. Interestingly, these were the colors of the Russian
Imperial Guard. The deposits of the Ural mountains were depleted long ago.
In an ideal perfect world , alexes change from red to green. However , this
is not usually the case. They tend to change from a brownish reddish
raspberry to a grayish bluish green. Some stones only partially change
color. What you are looking for is a dramatic 100% change. Today, the main
sources of alexandrite are Sri Lanka and Brazil. Collectors have long
complained about the Sri Lankan stones. They either had brown or yellow
undertones, or they did not have a color change, or were horribly included.
The largest known alexandrite is a 66 carat Sri Lankan gem currently in the
Smithsonian Institute. From a collector standpoint, there is some of this
material available today.
In 1987, a new find of alexandrite was discovered in Nova Era, Brazil. This
country has always been known as a producer of inexpensive gems, until this
find. What was amazing about this find was that most of the Brazilian gems
had a 100% color change. Although they did not change from ruby red to
emerald green, they changed from a pleasing raspberry red to an electric
blue green color. Presently, there is some limited availability of these
When collecting alexandrites, remember the color change is everything.
Clarity is a minor issue, as long as the inclusions do not effect the gem’s
durability. Also, cut is not critical, as long as the stone is not so
shallow or deep that it affects its sparkle. One caveat is due here. If you
have never seen an alexandrite, you may be disappointed. If you want a
perfect stone for jewelry, you can buy a synthetic alex for $100 per carat.
They have a perfect color change, are cut perfectly, and are flawless.
However, if you are a serious collector, this is one stone to collect, and
love for what it is. Alexandrites are one of the most sought after gems.
Jewelry quality alexandrites begin at US $1000 per carat. Wholesale prices
range from about US $8000 per carat for a gem quality Brazilian gem to over
US $50000 per carat for a five carat Russian gem. Average prices range from
US $5000 – US $20000 per carat.