The rarity surrounding alexandrites commences with an illustrious history that centers on a controversial tale dating back to the times of Imperial Russia. Initially discovered in the emerald mines of Russia’s Ural region, it is said that this relatively young gemstone was named after the Russian tsar Alexander at his coming of age celebration. Originally mistaken for an emerald because of its unusual teal green hue under the daylight, the stone magically transforms to an alluring red when taken under an incandescent light; red and green equating the prominent colors of old Imperial Russia thus serving as a symbol of tsarist Russia.
Prized for its natural ability to shift colors based on its exposure to a variety of different lights, the finest quality of alexandrite is scarce and hardly, if ever, used in the making of modern fine jewelry. George Frederick Kunz, once the master gemologist at Tiffany’s, became enamored by the alexandrite and set out to create a variety of adornments presenting the alexandrite in platinum settings from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
While the supply of natural alexandrite hailing from the Ural’s of Russia diminished at the onset of the 20th century, it was not until the late 1980’s that a new reserve of what many consider to be as superior as Russian alexandrite was discovered in the Brazilian region of Hematita. Constant efforts have led to the discovery of additional veins of alexandrite in the regions of Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and India but none of these qualities parallel that of what has been discovered in Russia and Brazil. Today, the alexandrite is regarded as one of the rarest and most extraordinary gems found on earth.
A vivid bluish-green hue by day and an alluring raspberry red by night, what is known to many as the alexandrite effect is one of the primary indicators when assessing each prized gems worth. Neither too somber nor too dull, the color must be disbursed evenly throughout the gem while displaying a fire & brilliance.
Gemstone clarity pertains to the number of inclusions, dimension of inclusions and location of those inclusions within a gemstone. The fewer, smaller & less recognizable the inclusions, the better. Alexandrite tends to have natural inclusions thus finding an eye clean stone is not only extremely rare but also leads to a dramatic increase in the value of the gem.
Alexandrite is assigned an 8.5 on the Mohs scale making it an extremely durable stone that can withstand a lot of the harshness associated with process of gem cutting. While an alexandrite can be cut into virtually any shape, they are most commonly fashioned into what are called mixed cuts which have brilliant cut crowns and step cut pavilions. Mixed cuts consist of Oval, Round, Emerald, Cushion & Princess cuts. Due to the rarity of the stone, alexandrite is cut in a way that maximizes weight and color change rather than brilliance.