The natural alexandrite is recognized as an extremely rare and hard to find gemstone. Its distinguishing characteristic is the color change phenomenon, varying from a greenish blue in daylight to a reddish purple in incandescent light. The stone was discovered in the 1800's near the Ural Mountains of Russia and was considered a symbol of aristocracy, named after Tsar Alexander. Since discovery two centuries ago, alexandrite has long been coveted as one of the rarest and most cherished gemstones of all. As a result of scarce supply and limited commercial viability, the stories, impressions and symbolic desire for the stone has outstripped its actual presence in the marketplace. Today we sit down with Graduate Gemologist and Designer, Haim Medine, who has been working with alexandrite for over a decade.
Mark Henry: We always hear the words 'scarcity,' and 'rare,' when contemplating alexandrite, but what actually makes the gem so rare?
Its limited supply is probably the single most responsible factor for which the alexandrite is considered a true rarity. This is because the geographic conditions that produce alexandrite are so unusual. Today, fine specimens of alexandrite are so rare that it has essentially disappeared from the gem marketplace except as an expensive collector's gem. Combine that with the fact that experts generally agree that future discoveries are unlikely.
Mark Henry: Can you talk a little bit more about those geographic conditions? How is alexandrite formed? What minerals is it made out of?
In order for an alexandrite to be considered an alexandrite, chromium must be present in the rocks formation before the natural heat and pressure process occurs. Alexandrite is a variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that is formed through heat and pressure. Without the presence of chromium, chrysoberyl crystals can still form but they will not be classified as alexandrite and they most certainly will not have the color-changing properties that make the gem so unique and beautiful.