” Look, here it is, the prophetic Russian stone! O crafty Siberian. It was always green as hope and only toward evening was it suffused with blood. It was that way from the beginning of the world, but it concealed itself for a long time, lay hidden in the earth, and permitted itself to be found only on the day when Tsar Alexander was declared of age, when a great sorcerer had come to Siberia to find the stone, a magician.”    Leskov, Nikolai Semyonovich (1884), “Alexandrite”

Today, I’d like to share just a little about one of my favorite stones of all time, “Alexandrite.”  This amazing color-changing gem has a most fascinating history.  It was discovered in Russia around the time that Tsar Alexander II was celebrating his 16th birthday in 1834 and it was named after him.  This gem came to be intrinsically tied in with Russia’s dramatic history and fascinated the Russian aristocracy and future generations.  It was also said to be the favorite gem of  Tsarina Alexandra. Her wistful beauty and the story of her tragic life cannot fail to move anyone.


Tsarina Alexandra

In 1891, The Ladies’ Home Journal wrote: “… Alexandrite appears to be in the ascendancy jewel comes from Siberia, and is of a beautiful dark green transparent color, which under any artificial light changes to that of pigeon blood ruby.  The Alexandrite is cut like a diamond and is being used by the leading jewelers for lace pins, bracelets, and other ornaments.”

To this day, Alexandrite is associated with duality, hope and sadness, pain and pleasure, loss and life, tears and laughter.  This is truly a mystical and fascinating stone and it definitely appeals to those with a literary or artistic sensibility.  Looking at genuine Alexandrite can evoke strong emotion in a sensitive person.


Christie’s sale number 1350, 15 November 2007
Set with a square-shaped alexandrite to the lavender enamel tapered gold band, circa 1890, ring size 8, with St Petersburg assay mark for 22 carat gold (1908-1917)

For more info see here.

In daylight, Alexandrite is green or blueish green (symbolizing ‘hope’) changing to red or purple or lavender (symbolizing ‘blood’).  Natural Alexandrite does not come in any other colors than this (if it is yellow or brown it is probably color change crysoberyl which is often sold as Alexandrite). The closer the green is to emerald and the closer the red is to ruby, the more valuable the stone. It is extremely rare to find a stone which changes to red however, normally the color is purple or lavender. Naturally mined Alexandrite is rare and valuable and very seldom comes in large carats.  Nearly all of the Alexandrite you see today in contemporary jewelry is lab created.  I personally would only look for something in a vintage setting with small stones as a big stone is almost certainly lab created (if it is natural it should command a very high price!)  But only a trained and trusted gemologist can tell you for certain.


Here is a natural Alexandrite specimen from the Ural mountains. This one is a spectacular true green and lavender.


A naturally mined Alexandrite and 9 ct English ring from my personal collection. Judging by the Art Deco setting, I would place this ring from 1920 to 1940. It was hard to capture the colors with my camera, but the stones change subtly from dark green to dark purple in daylight.

 Further reading / sources:

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