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Alexandrite

Alexandrite

Without a doubt, Alexandrite is one of the rarest, interesting, phenomenal and collectable of all gemstones.

Name

Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881)

Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881)

The 'gem of the tsars', or simply, the 'tsar stone', Alexandrite is a gemstone forever linked to the ruler for whom it was named, Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881), the country he ruled and the twilight of Russian aristocracy.

Composition of Alexandrite

The most desired member of the Chrysoberyl family, Alexandrite is defined by colour change. Alexandrite is pleochroic, or getting more technical, trichroic (three-coloured). This means each Alexandrite crystal has three colours, green, red and yellow, whose intensity changes when it is viewed from different angles and under different light sources. Sunlight contains a greater quantity of the green preferred by our eyes, making Alexandrite appear green in candescent light, while its color shifts towards red in incandescent light, which contains more red.

Properties of Alexandrite

The single biggest value consideration of Alexandrite is its colour change. Any colour change gem is judged by the strength of its change, and how attractive and distinct its colours are in both candescent and incandescent light. The ‘ideal’ Alexandrite will display distinct medium toned intense colours in both light sources, with the pure daylight greens to night time reds valued highest.

Seeing it change colour is dependant on several factors, including the intensity and purity of the two light sources, your eyesight, pleochroism, time of day, and even the weather. The concept of ‘bleed’ is when a colour change gem’s two colours are visible at the same time. Alexandrite gems that show too much bleed are less valuable as their colour change is diminished.

Alexandrite is classed as a Type II gemstone meaning there will be visible inclusions, particularly when over 1 carat. More inclusions often accentuate the colour change. Because of its intrinsic scarcity, Alexandrite is rare and expensive in any size. The most common shapes are cushions, octagons, ovals and rounds.

Source of Alexandrite

Russia and Sri Lanka were the only known sources of Alexandrite for approximately 90 years, despite the fact that no significant Russian Alexandrite was recorded since the 1917 Russian revolution. India is currently the most significant producer, but it is also currently found in Brazil, Burma, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have all produced small quantities of marketable Alexandrite.

Colour Change Garnet

Colour Change Garnet

Colour Change Garnet

Colour Change Garnets weren’t reported until the 70s. While typically changing from bluish greens to reddish purples or khaki greens to orangey-reds, other varieties of Colour Change Garnet include shades of blue, brown and grey that change to reddish purplish pinks. Usually only available in small sizes like Alexandrite, fine Colour Change Garnets can be visually mistaken for the Alexandrite.

Colour Change Sapphire

Colour Change Sapphire

Colour Change Sapphire

Colour Change Sapphires are not regularly available. While they come in a myriad of colour combinations, Colour Change Sapphires are typically segmented into two groups based on their change colours: ‘blue to purple’ (including bluish-purple to purplish-red, violet to red-violet and purple to red-violet) and ‘alexandrite-esque’ (green, greenish-brown or khaki to red or brownish-red). While their change colours vary depending on origin, Tanzania is currently the main producer of Colour Change Sapphires.

Zultanite

Zultanite

Zultanite

First collected in the late 70s, Zultanite is now mined commercially. A rare colour change variety of the mineral Diaspore coloured by manganese, Zultanite hails from a sole deposit, a remote mountainous area in Anatolia, Turkey. Much like Alexandrite, Zultanite’s name also has a royal connection, being named by Murat Akgun in honour of the 36 sultans who ruled the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia in the late 13th century. Noted for its attractive earthy hues, Zultanite’s colour change is not limited to two basic colours, exhibiting a range of greens, purplish-reds and yellows in different light sources. Zultanite changes from kiwi greens with canary flashes under sunny skies, to rich champagnes in traditional indoor lighting and raspberry hues in candlelight.

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