The alexandrite: properties and origin of the world rarest gem
Alexandrite is the rarest gemstone in the world, moreover its rarity is enhanced by the “changing colour” feature, according to the light. Presently, alexandrite’s deposits are not huge and the Urals’ deposits are depleted. However, alexandrite preserves a strong link with Russia thanks to its origin.
We can say that, even every gemmological species has great value and beauty, each gem stands out for unique and peculiar qualities. Diamond, for example, surely is the most famous gem in the world, due to its value and tradition; tanzanite, on the other hand, is so notorious because of its origin and thanks to Tiffany & Co., while emerald is loved for the mystery and fascination it represents. But there is a gemstone that stands out as the world rarest gem: we refer to the alexandrite.
With the exclusion of coloured diamonds, alexandrite surely is the rarest gem in the world, not only because it is presently difficult to find this species in the mines, but also for its capacity to change colour. Alexandrite, in fact, is a chrysoberyl variety that can change its colour if exposed to different light sources. Rarest examples’ hue can vary form green, with day light, to red, with incandescent light. For this, chrysoberyls that do not change colour based on the light are not alexandrites and they won’t never be the world rarest gemstones.
“Changing colour” property is an exceptional feature in gemmology, as in jewelry sector. Even if it is quite difficult to create jewels with alexandrites due to their rarity, rings or pendants with this gem are very appreciated mainly for the changing colour property. In fact, who owns a jewel with alexandrite has the chance to show tow different hues, according to the light, boasting a chameleonic look for every occasions.
But this is not all. We can say that alexandrite is a very ambitious gemstone, since it is not content just to have “changing colour” ability and, on some occasions, it can also present an optical effect typically called “cat eye”. The effect consists in a white-silver bright line that can be enhanced by a cabochon cut, resembling a cat’s eye.
Considering this unique features, the gemstone surely lives up to its reputation, moreover the same alexandrite’s origin is very relevant too, as it connects the gem to a particular nation: Russia. The gem was named after the Tzar Alexander II, as the first alexandrite’s crystals were discovered on his birthday in 1830, in the southern Urals emerald mines. Moreover, thanks to hue’s changing, alexandrite presents the colours (green and red) of the national Russian flag at that time, so that alexandrite became national symbol of Tzarist Russia.
However, the link between alexandrite and Russia seems to be weaker as the Urals’ deposits are depleted. It seems that the envying emeralds have banished the alexandrites from their mines and the gem can presently be found mainly in Brazil, Tanzania and Madagascar. Nevertheless, the origin of alexandrite’s name survives and reveals its glorious past, appointing it to be the tzarina of all the Russias for ever.