Alexandrites: Gemstones that Magically Change Color

Emerald by Day, Ruby by Night

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Can you find a gemstone that changes color? Absolutely. Alexandrites are actual color-changing stones, not to be confused with the more common mood rings.

Alexandrites display a spectrum of colors, usually changing from green to blue in the daytime to pink, purple or red at night. These stones change colors under different lighting conditions, so your stone may surprise you by morphing into a previously unseen color if you find yourself in a different location or under different lighting.

I have one stone that turns a striking emerald green under fluorescent lighting, goes a smoky grey in some stores, turns ice blue under other lights, and turns purple or red under regular lighting at night. This particular alexandrite is 1 carat and shows a wide color variation.

How Does a Real Stone Change Color?

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Chrysoberyl

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How Do Alexandrites Change Color?

Alexandrites change colors because of a unique and rare chemical composition. They are actually chrysoberyl. Chrysoberyl contains iron and titanium. Alexandrite contains chromium and it is this element that contributes to the startling color changes. It is only chrysoberyl displaying distinct color changes that is called alexandrite.

Color change also is influenced by waves or type of light and by the way the mineral absorbs light. The way it is cut, could also be a factor.

Where Were Alexandrites Discovered?

  • Alexandrite crystals were discovered in emerald mines in the Urals. Russia was the main supplier of alexandrite.
  • Alexandrite was also discovered in the 1980s in Brazil. These stones had a good color change but were not as green as the Russian alexandrite.
  • Alexandrite also comes from Sri Lanka but the hues aren't considered on par with the Russian alexandrite.
  • Alexandrite specimens of outstanding quality have also come from Tanzania.
  • Alexandrite is found in other countries.

How Were Alexandrites Named?

The stones show green to red, the colors of old Imperialist Russia. Interestingly, Alexandrite was discovered on the day the tzar (Alexander II) came of age, thus, alexandrite became the stone of tsarist Russia.

Even in its Raw State Chrysoberyl is Beautiful

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Alexandrite's Early Uses

Alexandrite jewelry was produced and became highly sought after. Alexandrite was:

  • Set into Russian jewelry
  • Used in Victorian jewelry from England
  • Tiffany's produced rings made with alexandrite gemstones

Master gemologist George Frederick Kunz was fascinated with alexandrite and its incredible color-changing properties.

As The Light Changes, so Does Color-Change Chrysoberyl and Alexandrite

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How Fast Do Alexandrites Change Color?

In most cases, the change is instantaneous; although, at times, you can see hints of colors appearing in your stone.

Different alexandrites change to different colors, so if you are looking for a stone to turn from green to red, you will want to ensure that this is what you are getting.

  • Stones called alexandrites go from pink to blue or they may change from purple to greenish

Some stones show wide color changes, while others show fewer color changes. Much depends on the quality and the chemical composition.

Watch the Color Change

Fast Facts

Facts

  • Mineral: Chrysoberyl
  • Chemistry: BeAl2O4
  • Mohs Hardness: 8.5

How to Choose an Alexandrite

Did You Know?

Birthstone for June/Gem for 55th wedding anniversary.

How to Get an Inexpensive Alexandrite

  • One way to acquire a beautiful Alexandrite ring at a fraction of the cost is to order your polished stone first. Your Alexandrite can later be put into a setting. (This is what I did. I ordered a loose round stone, then had it put into a ring.)
  • It is possible to order a smaller stone in a ring, which is another option--especially if you can't wait to wear it and enjoy all the color changes. The main thing is the quality of the stone and the color changes and if the setting isn't to your liking, this can be changed later.
  • A lab grown authentic gem will be free of inclusions and impurities and "fogginess," grown under optimal conditions, and may be considered a real gemstone, having the same chemical composition as a stone that was formed in nature.
  • Make sure your stone has been grown from a seed crystal and is considered an alexandrite and not an imitation.

Cautions When Buying an Alexandrite Via an Auction

If you decide to get your alexandrite through an online auction, it is possible to acquire a beautiful ring at a fraction of the cost.

  • Make sure your alexandrite stone actually changes color. Some stones advertised as alexandrites make use of the name to describe the color, not the actual color changing gemstone. Read the description and ask for photos showing the color change.
  • Ensure that your stone isn't a slighter color-changing chrosoberyl that wouldn't grade out by a gemologist and likely wouldn't have the clear color changes that one considered an alexandrite would.
  • Watch the auctions and become thoroughly acquainted with the different-colored stones that are available. Some look like brightly-colored gumdrops, which, it should be obvious, are not indicative of the real deal.
  • Other stones look dull and dark, such as the solid purple stones that look questionable and only have a slight color change. These may be touted as alexandrite but... buyer beware.
  • Some gemstones are described as synthetic alexandrite but are actually synthetic corundum laced with vanadium.This alexandrite-like material has been around for many decades. It shows a characteristic purplish color but there is never any green.
  • There are two very good reasons to buy in your own country. 1) I sent off for a loose stone from a different country and the buyer swore there was good color change. The photos seemed to support this. When I got my stone, there was zero color change. I exposed it to all kinds of lighting conditions. Nope. I put in a complaint and another loose stone was sent my way. Again I was assured it changed color. It didn't. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who count on the fact that if you are in a different country, you won't pursue matters when you find out you've been had. 2) Even if you manage to score an authentic stone, if you buy from a different country, the duty charges can be considerable. They can in fact, almost double your cost.
  • Check the reputation of the seller.
  • Get an feel for price ranges and what a deal on an alexandrite is.

An auction can be a legitimate way to find an alexandrite. I found two beautiful stones but I didn't buy impulsively. I watched the auctions, learned about alexandrites, developed a trained eye for color changes, and bid carefully, setting a ceiling amount, in my quest for a beautiful alexandrite gemstone and an alexandrite ring. Each stone exhibits different hues but both are beautiful and ever-mysterious.

An alexandrite is ever fascinating as you never tire of the color changes. If you are really fortunate, you will find a stone with impressive color changes, such as my 1 carat that so far has shown about 11 different hues.

If You Own an Alexandrite, You Are Fortunate Indeed

Alexandrites differ, stone to stone. If you decide to bring an alexandrite home, you'll have a unique gem that rewards you with intriguing color changes for years to come.

Do you Own an Alexandrite?

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© 2009 Athlyn Green

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Comments 5 comments

Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green 6 weeks ago from West Kootenays Author

Kate, try it in different light. That is usually what will trigger color change.


Kate 21 months ago

I have an old alexandrite that used to change from a beautiful dark purple to a green but will not change anymore is there any thing I can do to get it chaning again?


Suzie Bell profile image

Suzie Bell 2 years ago from Narragansett, Rhode Island

Sorry about this just signed in through Facebookhad and I am unable to view the 2 comments from above question regardingthe stone that is purple during the day and green at night...


Sue 2 years ago

I have a question regarding emerald by day ruby by night....mine is complete opposite....purple during the day and unbelievable green at night..any help would be appreciated.....thx in advance


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Awesome article about my favorite stone (and it's even my birthstone--June!). I used to think I knew a lot about alexandrite (I own several great pieces and a few so-so pieces) until I learned twice as much from your article--thanks for the information! Keep up the good work! Voted awesome, up, useful, and interesting (and would've voted more if there were more relevant categories). Following you now... Cheers!

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