There are few stones with such powerful shade-shifting capabilities than alexandrite, a rare and beautiful stone whose colors shift from greenish-blue to reddish-purple. It’s both expensive and rare and, as a result, doesn’t often appear in jewelry.
Alexandrite was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1834 by Finnish mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld. At first glance, Nordenskiöld believed it to be emerald, but upon further inspection, he realized the unique color-changing effects and knew it was something different. Not only did this captivate the Finnish mineralogist, but also the country of Russia, as the stone’s unique hues, red and green, were the national military colors of Imperial Russia. Russia’s Count Lev Alekseevich Perovskii named it alexandrite after the future Czar of Russia, Alexander II.
Nordenskiöld’s accidental discovery has led to a world of joy for alexandrite lovers, proving that sometimes the most unexpected discoveries can lead to life’s greatest pleasures. Owning a piece of alexandrite is a symbol of fate; a reminder that our ambitions might not take us where we planned, but to an even better place.
Russia enjoyed exclusive access to alexandrite until its mines were depleted in the late 1890s. There were few exceptions, however, with noble figures in Europe and America who could purchase Russian alexandrite. Russia’s court jeweler Carl Fabergé and Tiffany & Co were able to secure alexandrite through gem expert George Frederick Kunz, an American mineralogist and mineral collector.
It wasn’t until 1987 that new sources of alexandrite were discovered, this time, in Brazil. While Russia’s alexandrite remains the quality standard of the stone and is determined by shades of green to greenish-blue in daylight and reddish-purple in artificial light, South American, specifically Brazilian, alexandrite has phenomenal color saturation, with deep red purple in artificial light and rich greens in daylight. Other sources today are found in Africa, the U.S. and Sri Lanka, the latter of which produces larger stones than any other country and has unique shades of yellowish green and brownish red at either end of the spectrum. Mark Henry exclusively sourced alexandrite from Brazil, considered to be the most valuable and highest quality in the marketplace thanks to its color saturation.
No matter where it’s sourced, alexandrite is still rare and expensive per carat, making it incredibly valuable to the owner and finding alexandrite over two carats is rarely discovered. If it is, consider yourself lucky.
Alexandrite belongs to the chrysoberyl family
The chrysoberyl family is the gem species in which alexandrite belongs. Chrysoberyl falls at 8.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, and is considered the third-hardest frequently encountered natural gemstone. For reference, diamond, the hardest mineral, is at the top of the scale at 10. Hardness means a gem’s ability to resist scratching. The harder a stone is, the more likely it’ll appear on more frequently worn jewelry, like a ring.
The chrysoberyl family includes alexandrite and chrysoberyl’s cat’s eye, which looks, well, exactly like it sounds. Both stones are known for their phenomena but in different ways: alexandrite with its color-shifting abilities and chrysoberyl cat’s eye for its chatoyance, an optical phenomena where a band of reflected light appears to move beneath the surface of a cabochon-cut gemstone.
Mark Henry uses alexandrite in every category of jewelry designed to be worn every day, thanks to its hardness, as well as its durability. Because it is resistant to scratching, Mark Henry creates beautiful rings in many styles that can weather all types of wear and last for a lifetime
Qualities of alexandrite
What people might not know is that alexandrite is rarer than diamonds and more expensive per carat than the Big Three: emerald, ruby and sapphire. While some diamonds are truly rare, most are not. There are only a handful of quality alexandrite mines around the world, whereas diamonds can be found from hundreds of mines worldwide. With limited supply and high demand, alexandrite is one of the top rarest and most valuable gems on Earth.
Alexandrite’s value lies within the strength of its color change and purity of the hue. Because it’s one of the few color-shifting stones, it’s attractive to many jewelry experts and enthusiasts, as it constantly offers something new and exciting within a collection.
Gemstones are produced by the earth and few things naturally produced will be 100% the same, which is the beauty of gemstones. This, however, also determines a stone’s worth. Fine alexandrite is green to bluish green in daylight and red to purplish red in incandescent light. It’s a pleochroic gem, meaning it can show different colors when you view the stone from different directions. Its value depends on the strength of the color change and purity of the hue. It’s also often left untreated. Great quality alexandrite can also be determined by its lack of inclusions, or blemishes, within the stone.
Alexandrite is also highly sought-after among collectors. In 2014, Christie’s auctioned off a 21-carat Russian alexandrite at Geneva Magnificent Jewels with a valuation of $450,000 to $650,000 Swiss Francs, and it went for $1.325 million Swiss Francs. Alexandrite is often underestimated in value and deserves a loving place in any jewelry collection.