Rocks On: Hard-to-find alexandrite picks up in price


New York--Named for Russian royalty and featuring a number of distinctive properties, color-changing alexandrite can be hard for suppliers to get their hands on, lending the gemstone a mysterious and exciting air.

Alexandrite is a very rare mineral from the chrysoberyl family. Due to the complex way the stone absorbs light, it changes color depending on what kind of light it’s exposed to--it can be bluish-green in daylight or fluorescent light, and changes to purplish-red in incandescent light.

The stone was discovered in the Ural Mountains in Russia in the 1830s, and those initial stones displayed a high quality and immense color change. The gemstone caught the attention of the country’s leaders, and it was named for Alexander II. 

This royal history gives the gemstone a certain cache, according to GIA Senior Industry Analyst Russell Shor.

Some of the original alexandrite stones from the Ural Mountains still can be found in vintage and estate jewelry, while a great number of the stones being mined these days are now coming from Sri Lanka, Brazil, and parts of Southeast Asia and east Africa.

High-quality alexandrite now is extremely rare and difficult to find. According to the International Colored Gemstone Association’s website, if is undisputable that a piece of alexandrite originated in Russia, the stone possesses a “rarity of enormous value.”

Thus, finely faceted alexandrites bigger than 1 carat are among the most expensive gemstones in the world, rarer even than fine ruby, sapphire or emerald, according to the ICA. 

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