Alexandrite is known as the color-changing gem. In the case of the Alexandrite from Nova Era Brazil the change is most often the change from the color of an Indicolite tourmaline to the color of an amethyst. In both cases the colors are attractive. Other mining locations produce color changes that are different than Nova Era. For instance years ago when traveling to Sri Lanka we saw a few pieces of very expensive Alexandrite that went from muddy brown (with a little rusty orange) to muddy green (emphasis on muddy). The change was not startling but the colors were unattractive. About 16 years ago (or so) there was a discovery of Alexandrite in India. The colors in that case are nice to look at and resemble (to a certain degree) the colors of Morganite which are: kind of peachy to kind of pink (both phases are accompanied by a little, very little tan). The Indian stones are attractive and the color change is noticeable.
One interesting thing about the color change of Alexandrite is that most films and most cameras are partially color blind to the color-change. We ran across this issue when we wrote our first book. That was back before digital cameras and we had a devil of a time getting the color at all right. We went from Kodachrome to Ektachrome to Fuji and it was all a bust. Even now the digital cameras will tend to only see the blue or green phase and not see the other. Interesting to know how much more sensitive our eyes are in comparison to cameras and films.
Alexandrite is a color variety of the mineral Chrysoberyl. Chrysoberyl is the third hardest of the commonly known gems. Chrysoberyl is a crystalline form of Beryllium-Aluminate. As you may recall Sapphire and Ruby are collectively known as corundum. Corundum is the second hardest of the commonly known gems. Corundum is pure aluminum oxide. The second and third hardest gems both have aluminum as a major ingredient. Interesting!!!
June is always a great month—sunshine, flowers, school is out, and Alexandrite is its birthstone (shared with Pearl that is).
Rarity is one of the hallmarks of gems. All gems are rare. For instance and by comparison gold is about 30+ dollars per gram. The most affordable gems match and surpass that easily (Amethyst, Citrine, and Red Garnet). Gold owes its price to its rarity. If gold were as available as iron or aluminum its price would also be per-ton and not per-ounce.
If rarity is a big deal in this world then Alexandrite (natural Alexandrite) is way underpriced even at prices I’ve seen listed. The prices I’ve seen large fine Alexandrite listed at wholesale would extrapolate to between $50,000 and $100,000 PER-CARAT retail—or more.
For our first 15 years in the business there was almost no quantity of good Alexandrite in the market. There were a number of stones from time to time mined in Sri Lanka that might be OK for size and clarity but their color ranged from dark muddy brown to dark muddy green. Not exciting. However, in 1987 there was a miraculous discovery of Alex (we’re friends now) in Nova Era, Brasil. Luckily we were in Brasil several times that year and got to see and buy large amazing Alexandrite gems in quantity. It was the proverbial kid in a candy store experience.
At the turn of this century there was a discovery of Alexandrite in India. This was welcome since the material from Brasil was largely out of the general market by then. The gem in the photo is from the Indian find.
The best Rhodolite garnets are truly amazing to see. Especially in the bigger sizes. The stone in the photo is a 44+ carat amazing gem. This particular stone was mined in Sri Lanka which produces some unexpected gem varieties in its gem gravels. “Gem gravels” you say? Yes, lots of the gems found in Sri Lanka are in alluvial deposits where the stones are truly in gravel form and all rounded and stream worn.
From Sri Lanka we’ve obtained many different types of gems: Star Sapphires (both blue and pink), Rhodolite garnets, Cat’s-eye chrysoberyl, Alexandrite, Blue sapphire, Pink sapphire, “Common” chrysoberyl, Cat’s-eye alexandrite, Andalusite, Yellow sapphire, and Spessartite (garnet). Not bad for a little Island down at the tip of India.
One more thing. A couple of the meals we’ve experienced in Sri Lanka were some of the best anywhere in a long lifetime of world travel. Our first Chai tea experience was in Sri Lanka in 1981. They are ahead of their time!
Back in 1987 when we were all getting excited about the Nova Era alexandrite find in Brazil, there was a new find of tourmaline in Paraíba, Brazil.
Paraíba is in what Brazilians call the Nordeste (Northeast). Looking at a map of South America Paraíba is a small Brazilian state that sticks out about as far East as any part of the continent. The Nordeste is a generally dry area (they grow cotton in the Nordeste [does this remind anyone of Arizona and cotton]). Apparently the Nordeste is in the rain shadow of South America. If you also look at the shape of South America and Africa you can see that Paraíba fits nicely into the area of Africa now known as Nigeria.
Pearl is a great birthstone for June but Alexandrite is the excitement. With the advent of Chinese fresh water pearls, pearls have become almost too available. On the other hand, true, natural Alexandrite is, and will seemingly always be—rare and hard to find.
Currently the most available and yet quite nice material is from India, from the state of Andhra Pradesh. The color change can be quite nice and yet quite affordable by comparison with material from Russia or Brazil.
Be sure any Alexandrite you buy, of significant size or price, has been certified by a properly accredited appraiser or gemologist. For more information on Alexandrite, click here to read our previous blog post.
Those born in June are lucky to have their choice of three birthstones: Alexandrite, Pearl and Moonstone. This year, we’d like to focus on Alexandrite… the most rare of all the birthstones.
For years, gemology students have been taught that Alexandrite was the rarest of all gemstones (whether or not this is the current teaching, it was taught for many years). Perhaps today, the better statement is that Alexandrite is the rarest of the birthstones. In any case Alexandrite is a very rare gem, for many of the same issues that Emerald has. Let us explain…