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Alexandrite is a rare gem formed of the mineral chrysoberyl. The gemstone’s colour depends on the type of light source it is being presented with, such as, in the daylight or under fluorescent lights the gem appears to be of a nice green, but when faced with a lamp or candle lit flame the gem changes to a brownish, purplish red. This is due to the way the minerals in the stone absorb light. Alexandrite gemstones are also very strong pleochroic gems, meaning that the gem can present several different colours depending on the direction of which you are looking at the gem. Its three main pleochroic colours are usually green, orange and purple-red. This is again because of the way the gem’s minerals absorb light and not from the gem’s pleochroism.
Considering how rare and sacred the alexandrite gems are, more so in larger sizes, it is of a rather expensive member of the chrysoberyl family. The gem, like pearl and moonstone, is also a June birthstone. The gem was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1803. The first kind of alexandrite gems found were of very fine quality and presented bright vivid colour changes. The gem was named after Alexander II who was the heir to the throne at that time. It caught the countries attention because of its bright colours; red and green, which mirrored the Imperial Russian flag. The alexandrite gems didn’t last in Russia for long and the gem is now found in Sri Lanka, East Africa and Brazil. In these newer deposits, some contain fine-quality stones, but these stones display less-precise colour change and much more muddier hues compared to the 19th century gemstones that were first found.
When valuing the gem, the size of the gem becomes a significant factor, one of the largest stones is of a red/green colour weighing at 65.7 carats which is from Sri Lanka and now located in Smithsonian Institution. The largest Russian gems weigh around 30 carats, although most alexandrites are less than one carat. Top-quality natural gems that weigh around one carat sell for around $15,000. Gems that weigh over one carat can range between $50,000 and $70,000 per carat.
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