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Alexandrite: A Russian Christmas Tale

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

It was the end of a long, cold Russian winter.   Snow still covered the ground and icicles hung from the houses and trees.   Deep beneath the Ural Mountains, a poor peasant was laboring in a dark, dreary mine.   When suddenly a bit of shimmering rock caught his attention.   The stone had the magical property of appearing red when viewed from one direction and green when viewed from another.   This magical stone was appropriately named the Christmas Stone.   The year was 1830.

Meanwhile back at the warm, cozy Tsarist palace, the young tsarevitch, the future Alexander II, was coming of age.   On the very day that the Christmas Stone was discovered, young Alex was celebrating his twelfth birthday.   Fortuitously, the colors of the Christmas Stone - red and green - were also the colors the Tsarist court.   So, the stone was promptly renamed alexandrite.   Being somewhat bored, the Tsars apparently enjoyed playing the royal "name game".

Although the origin of alexandrite is shrouded in mystery, the beauty of this rare stone is undeniable. With proper cutting, the finest alexandrite exhibits a rich bluish-green in sunlight and a deep raspberry red in artificial light.   Unfortunately, the major Russian sources of alexandrite were depleted by the early 1900s.

More recently, deposits of alexandrite have been found in the gem-rich regions of Brazil.   The finest Brazilian stones exhibit deep colors and exceptional clarity which rival the earlier Russian stones.   It is the beauty of these fine Brazilian alexandrites that has generated a renewed interest in this phenomenal gemstone.   Because of its great rarity and beauty, alexandrite is often limited in supply and can be very expensive.   But, you do not need more rubels than a Tsar to acquire a precious gemstone which exhibits an exciting change of color effect.   For example, gem quality specimens of diaspore, recently discovered in Turkey, display a pastel green in sunlight and a light rose to champagne hue in artificial light.   Another fascinating gemstone, color-change sapphire, shifts from violetish-blue to purplish-red with changes in lighting conditions.   Finally, andalusite exhibits two colors simultaneously:  yellowish-green and reddish-brown.

In addition to great color variations, these gemstones also offer the consumer a variety of costs.   Fine quality color-change sapphires and diaspores are significantly less expensive than comparable quality alexandrites.   And an andalusite, once known as poor man's alexandrite, is even easier on the pocket book.

Bijoux Extraordinaire is a practice of independent gemologists providing jewelry appraisals, custom jewelry design and gemstone acquisition services for jewelry and gemstone enthusiasts.   If you are considering the purchase of an alexandrite or other fine gemstone, please contact us to learn more about how we can help you. Our gemologists will provide you with the expertise and knowledge you need to acquire a beautfiul gemstone of lasting quality at a fair price.

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