Friday, May 17, 2013

Gemstone Highlights: Alexandrite

What is it?
Alexandrite is a main variety of Chrysoberyl, and very scarce due to its chemical composition.  Known for its ability to change color, called the alexandrite effect, the phenomenon occurs with a change in the source of illumination. The stone exhibits green or bluish-green in daylight, yet will turn a soft shade of red, purplish-red or raspberry in incandescent light. Chromium, as the major impurity, with iron and titanium are the elements that facilitate the change.

Discovered by a Finnish mineralogist, Nils Gustaf Nordenskiold (1792-1866), it was named "Alexandrite" in honor of the future Tsar of Russia, Alexander II.

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Ancient Usages.
Found in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1830, the old Russian Imperial colors were green and red, so Alexandrite was initially only mined for royalty. It wasn't until other deposits were found in various locations that the gemstone gained worldwide recognition.

Where is it found?
Russia was named the prime source for these gemstones, yet in the 1990's other deposits were located in India, Madagascar Ceylon, Brazil, Burma, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Sri Lanka, but said not to hold the color changing qualities of those found in the Ural Mountains.

Some gemstones are lab-grown (synthetic) and are not actually chrysoberyl, but corundum laced with trace elements or color-change spinel. These are referred to as 'simulated alexandrite' or 'Czochralski alexandrite' after the process that grows the crystals.

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Cleaning & Care.
On the Moh's Scale, alexandrite is a solid 8.5 and is noted for being tough, hard and durable. A simple cleaning includes warm water with a few drops of dish detergent, rinse and polish with soft cloth. Alexandrite jewelry  can be cleaned in an ultrosonic bath or steamed cleaned without problems.

Alexandrite jewelry should be stored separately because of it's capacity to damage and scratch other jewelry and stones, as well as be scratched itself.

The Mystic & Folklore
Alexandrite is the birthstone for the month of June and the 55th year marriage anniversary stone. It is also known as the stone of Friday, or the stone of "Friday's Child."

Because it's relatively a 'young' gemstone, there is not much information for this category. However, since it's discovery, the gemstone has been attributed to luck, good fortune and love, and in Russia, good omens. It is also said to increase creativity, imagination and intuition.

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