June Birthstone: Alexandrite


Winner of the Geological Lottery?

Most gemstones have thousands of years of history and lore and myth surrounding them... But not Alexandrite.

It wasn’t discovered until relatively recently, in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the 1830’s.

The story goes that a group of miners were working in the Ural mountains collecting emeralds. One of them found a few stones that he thought were emeralds and took them back to his camp.

That night, he pulled the green stones out to examine them by the light of the fire and... They had turned red!

He was baffled, but went to bed.  When he woke up the next morning and examined them in the sunlight, they appeared green once again.

By the end of the decade, the new gemstone was named “alexandrite” because red and green were the colors of imperial Russia under Alexander II, and it became the national stone of tsarist Russia.

The rare alexandrite stayed popular in the jewelry shops of St. Petersburg and Paris.

But it was the New York City based Tiffany & Company that took alexandrite’s popularity to new heights. 

Tiffany’s master gem buyer became fascinated with the gem and traveled to Russia in search of it. Tiffany’s later produced a popular line of alexandrite rings and platinum ensembles in the late 1800’s.

The combined popularity in Russia, France, and America exhausted the mines of Russia near the turn of the century.

New sources have since been discovered in India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and on the border of Tanzania and Mozambique... But typically displaying a very weak color change.

Nothing compared to the original  Russian stones.

Not until 1987 were other sources discovered that could match (some say exceed) the quality of Russian alexandrite. Today, the Hematita and Nova Era mines of Brazil yield large stones with a deep, dramatic color shift, and superior clarity qualities.

But why are these stones so rare?

It all comes down to alexandrite’s color change. You see...

The chemical composition found in the Urals of Russia, and in the Hematita and Nova Era mines of Brazil, is a rare combination of elements that makes these stones something of a miracle.

An alexandrite is essentially a chrysoberyl mineral made up of, among other things, the element beryllium. But its color change ability comes from the presence of chromium.

As a rule... Beryllium and chromium are not found together in nature. They come from two very different types of rocks. 

These two being brought together by nature is a geological phenomenon that has only occurred a handful of times in Earth’s history.

Alexandrite stones are rare indeed, the result of a kind of geological jackpot. 

These are so rare that most people have never seen a natural alexandrite, but only a man-made synthetic.

These are so rare that an alexandrite (of good clarity and a strong color shift), can cost at least double what a diamond of the same size and clarity would cost.

They are absolutely breath-taking if you can see a natural stone with a dramatic color shift for yourself.

They’re a very special birthstone for June babies, and the traditional gift for 45th and 55th wedding anniversaries.

Other June Birthstones:

Moonstone
Pearl