Alexandrite is the rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that changes color in different lighting. Most prized are those alexandrite birthstones that show a vivid green to bluish green in daylight or fluorescent light, and an intense red to purplish red in incandescent light. Major alexandrite deposits were first discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural Mountains. The gem was named after the young Alexander II (1818–1881), heir apparent to the throne. Alexandrite caught the country’s attention because its red and green colors mirrored the national military colors of imperial Russia. When certain types of long, thin inclusions are oriented parallel to each other in this gem, they can create another phenomenon, called chatoyancy or the cat’s-eye effect. Few gems are as fascinating – or as stunning – as cat’s-eye alexandrite.
𝑾𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒅 𝑨𝒍𝒆𝒙𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒆
The spectacular Ural Mountain deposits were eventually mined out, and now most alexandrite comes from Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa. The newer deposits contain some fine-quality stones, but many display less-precise color change and muddier hues than the 19th century Russian alexandrites. Because of its scarcity, especially in larger sizes, fine-quality alexandrite is one of the more expensive colored gems.