Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the rarest gem of all: Alexandrite. Rarer than Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond and Tanzanite, it is extremely difficult to come by. And even if you do manage to track one down, you will pay through your nose!
What sets this beauty apart is its colour changing abilities, it has been referred to as ‘an Emerald by day and a Ruby by night’. Alexandrite is a Chrysoberyl which contains not only titanium and iron, but also chrome, which accounts for the spectacular colour change. The stone goes from green in daylight to purplish-red in artificial light. This does vary depending on where it was mined, but the most sought after stones are from Russian descent.
Alexandrite was discovered in 1830 in the Emerald mines in the southern part of Russia’s Ural Mountains. It was named after Czar Alexander II, as it was discovered on his birthday, and was highly prised by Russian aristocrats and royalty as it displayed their national military colours, green and red. At first it was exclusive to the Russian ‘richest’ as it was the only source for more than 90 years, however, small deposits were found on the island of Sri Lanka but the quality wasn’t nearly as good as the Russian stones.
In the mid-1980’s a relatively large strike of Alexandrite was made in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais at Hematita. Chaos ensued… when the news leaked out, 3000 ‘garimpeiros’ (independent prospectors) descended on the small valley and began digging. This valley is only 500 feet wide and 650 feet long! It is understandable that the government gave the order to shut down after only 12 weeks, with an average of one death by gunshot per week.
By then the area was basically mined out. It is estimated that the total (cut) weight mined there, was only 150 000 carats, sound like a lot? Not next to the 100 million carats of diamonds mined every year…
Since then mining has resumed in Hematita, but very sporadic. Limited amounts have been coming out of Russia since the fall of the Soviet system, but these stones generally have owners even before they are mined.
Alexandrite is the birthstone for June, along with Pearl and Moonstone.
If you are indeed the lucky owner of such a gem, it is said to give clarity of thought in difficult situations and will support creativity and inspire imagination. Just the kind of stone I would like to possess!
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Image credit: By Original uploader was User: at en.wikipedia – Photographed by David Weinberg for Alexandrite.net and released to the public domain. Alexandrite.net contributors. Step Cut Alexandrite Cushion, 26.75 cts. In Alexandrite.net, Tsarstone collectors guide. December 07, 2006, 16:42 UTC. Available at: http://www.alexandrite.net/viewpage.html?id=ALX-001-00001. Accessed February 26, 2007., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link