Alexandrite – the tsarstone – is a variety of the mineral, chrysoberyl, an aluminate of beryllium. Although mined in such scattered locations as Brazil, Burma, India, Madagascar and Tanzania, the finest examples of the unique gem, alexandrite, are from the Rodina – Mother Russia.
With a rating of 8.5 on Moh’s scale, alexandrite ranks right between ruby and sapphire. This hardness makes alexandrite an excellent choice for jewelry. It is its color – or more properly, ‘colors’ – that give alexandrite its unique quality. In daylight, an optimum, or ideal, alexandrite is a bluish emerald green. In incandescent light, however, the alexandrite appears a purplish or raspberry red. These are the striking hues of the original Russian alexandrite. Alexandrite from other locations tends to be less vivid in varying degrees. This interesting trait of this diaphanous mineral is due to alexandrite’s chemical composition.
Although basically a chrysoberyl, which is colorless, alexandrite contains iron, titanium, beryllium and chromium. This very specific set of circumstances in nature – makes alexandrite one of the rarest and most valuable of the gemstones. An alexandrite of more than one caret is rarer than a fine ruby, sapphire or emerald.
It’s interesting to note that this tendency of a stone to change colors is in fact called “the alexandrite effect.” Sapphires and garnets, for instance, are said to be “alexandritic”.
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