Alexandrite: Meanings, Properties & History

by Mehran Khan on Jul 07, 2023


Alexandrite is a rare and beautiful gemstone famous for its unique color changing properties. This exquisite gem, named after the Russian tsar Alexander II, displays a mesmerizing play of colors that shifts between shades of green, blue, and red depending on the light source. Its ability to change color is a result of its unique mineral composition and the way it absorbs and reflects light.

Discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the early 19th century, alexandrite has since become one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world. It is treasured for its exceptional beauty and scarcity, with high-quality specimens commanding premium prices in the market.

The color change phenomenon of alexandrite is known as "the alexandrite effect" and is highly valued by gem enthusiasts and collectors. In daylight or fluorescent light, it exhibits a vibrant green or bluish-green hue, while under incandescent light, such as candlelight or tungsten lighting, it transforms into a stunning reddish-purple color. This captivating color shift has earned alexandrite the nickname "emerald by day, ruby by night."

The unique optical properties of alexandrite are attributed to the presence of chromium within its crystal structure. This trace element is responsible for absorbing different wavelengths of light, resulting in the gem's remarkable color change. The more intense and distinct the color change, the more valuable the alexandrite.

Due to its rarity, natural alexandrite gemstones are considered highly valuable and prized by collectors. However, synthetic lab-grown alexandrite, created using advanced techniques, offers a more accessible option for admirers of this captivating gemstone.

Alexandrite's beauty and scarcity have made it a popular choice for various jewelry pieces, including rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Its stunning color-changing ability adds a touch of enchantment and intrigue to any jewelry design, making it a favored gem among both gemstone enthusiasts and jewelry connoisseurs.

Whether you appreciate alexandrite for its captivating color change or its rich history and allure, this extraordinary gemstone continues to captivate the hearts of gemstone enthusiasts around the world, embodying the wonder and magic of nature's artistic brilliance.

What Is Alexandrite?

Alexandrite is a rare and highly prized gemstone known for its remarkable color-changing properties. It belongs to the chrysoberyl family of gemstones and is characterized by its ability to exhibit different colors under different lighting conditions.

The most distinctive feature of alexandrite is its color shift between green or bluish-green in daylight or fluorescent light, and a rich red or purplish-red under incandescent light such as candlelight or tungsten lighting. This unique phenomenon is often referred to as "the alexandrite effect" and is highly valued by gem enthusiasts.

The color-changing property of alexandrite is a result of the way it absorbs and reflects light. The gemstone contains trace amounts of chromium, which is responsible for the color change. In natural daylight, the gemstone absorbs yellow and green light, giving it a green or bluish-green appearance. In incandescent light, the gemstone absorbs red and blue light, resulting in a red or purplish-red color.

Alexandrite was first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the early 19th century and was named after the Russian tsar Alexander II. It quickly gained popularity and became a sought-after gemstone in the Russian imperial court. Today, alexandrite is still considered one of the most valuable and rare gemstones in the world.

Due to its scarcity, natural alexandrite gemstones are highly prized and command high prices in the market. Synthetic lab-grown alexandrite, which has the same chemical composition and color-changing properties as natural alexandrite, offers a more accessible option for those who appreciate this captivating gemstone.

Alexandrite is often used in jewelry, particularly in rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Its color-changing ability adds a touch of enchantment and uniqueness to any jewelry design. The gemstone is also considered a birthstone for the month of June and is associated with good luck, fortune, and creativity.

Overall, alexandrite is cherished for its rarity, mesmerizing color change, and its ability to evoke a sense of wonder and fascination. It continues to captivate gem enthusiasts and collectors alike, embodying the beauty and allure of nature's artistic brilliance.

What Is The Meaning Of Alexandrite?

Alexandrite is a gemstone that carries symbolic meanings and is associated with various qualities and attributes. Here are some common meanings and symbolism associated with alexandrite:

Balance and Harmony:

Alexandrite is often associated with balance and harmony due to its unique color-changing properties. The gemstone's ability to shift between different colors represents the balance between opposing forces, such as light and dark, day and night. It is believed to promote emotional equilibrium and help maintain a sense of harmony in one's life.

Transformation and Adaptability:

The color-changing nature of alexandrite is often seen as a symbol of transformation and adaptability. Just as the gemstone undergoes a shift in color, it is believed to inspire individuals to embrace change, adapt to new circumstances, and find inner strength during transitions or challenging times.
Luck and Fortune: Alexandrite is considered a stone of good fortune and luck. It is believed to bring abundance, prosperity, and positive opportunities into the lives of those who wear or possess it. In some cultures, alexandrite is associated with attracting wealth and success.

Creativity and Inspiration:

Alexandrite is also associated with stimulating creativity and inspiring artistic expression. It is believed to enhance one's imagination, intuition, and problem-solving abilities. The gemstone is said to awaken the creative potential within individuals and encourage innovative thinking.

Spiritual Growth and Awareness:

Alexandrite is sometimes regarded as a stone that aids in spiritual growth and self-discovery. It is believed to enhance one's intuition, psychic abilities, and spiritual awareness. The gemstone is said to assist in connecting with higher realms of consciousness and gaining insights into one's spiritual path.

It's important to note that the meanings and symbolism associated with gemstones can vary across cultures and belief systems. While alexandrite carries these general symbolic interpretations, personal beliefs and experiences can also influence the significance one assigns to this gemstone. Ultimately, the meaning of alexandrite can be deeply personal and hold different connotations for each individual.

Meaning Of Alexandrite

History Of Alexandrite

The history of alexandrite dates back to the early 19th century when it was first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia. The gemstone was named after Alexander II, the reigning tsar of Russia at that time. Its discovery is credited to Finnish mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld, who found the gemstone in 1834 and brought it to the attention of Russian gemstone experts.

The Ural Mountains were known for their rich mineral deposits, and the finding of alexandrite added to the region's reputation as a source of valuable gemstones. The unique color-changing properties of alexandrite quickly captured the interest and fascination of gem enthusiasts and collectors.

Alexandrite's popularity soared in Russia, and it became highly sought-after among the Russian nobility and imperial court. The gemstone was cherished for its rarity and the way it displayed the colors of the Russian national flag—green and red—under different lighting conditions. Alexandrite was even considered the official gemstone of Imperial Russia.

During the early years, the supply of natural alexandrite was limited to the Ural Mountains, and it remained a relatively rare gemstone. However, additional deposits of alexandrite were later discovered in other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, Brazil, Tanzania, and India. While these deposits yielded some alexandrite, the Russian Ural Mountains remained the primary source of high-quality specimens.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 disrupted the supply of alexandrite from the Ural Mountains. The gemstone became even scarcer, and its popularity continued to grow. The demand for alexandrite was further fueled by renowned jewelry houses like Fabergé, who incorporated the gemstone into their exquisite creations.

With the advent of synthetic gemstone production in the early 20th century, researchers and gemstone experts began exploring methods to create lab-grown alexandrite. By the 1960s, the first successful synthetic alexandrite was produced. These lab-grown versions offered a more affordable alternative to natural alexandrite while possessing the same color-changing properties.

Today, while natural alexandrite remains highly prized and valuable, synthetic alexandrite is readily available in the market. Advances in gemstone synthesis have made it possible to create high-quality lab-grown alexandrite that closely resembles its natural counterpart.

The allure and rarity of alexandrite, coupled with its captivating color change, have cemented its position as one of the most coveted gemstones worldwide. It continues to be treasured by gemstone enthusiasts, collectors, and jewelry connoisseurs, carrying with it a rich history and a sense of elegance and intrigue.

Properties Of Alexandrite

Alexandrite possesses several unique properties that contribute to its desirability and allure as a gemstone. Here are some key properties of alexandrite:

Color-Changing Phenomenon:

Alexandrite is renowned for its exceptional color-changing ability. It exhibits different colors under varying lighting conditions. In daylight or fluorescent light, it typically appears green or bluish-green. However, under incandescent light or candlelight, it transforms into a vibrant red or purplish-red hue. This remarkable color change, known as the alexandrite effect, is a result of the gemstone's interaction with different light wavelengths.

Optical Pleochroism:

Alexandrite is pleochroic, meaning it displays different colors when viewed from different angles. This property adds depth and dimension to the gemstone's appearance. The primary pleochroic colors of alexandrite are typically green, red, and yellow. When viewed from different angles, the gemstone can exhibit variations of these colors, enhancing its visual appeal.

Hardness and Durability:

Alexandrite has a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, making it a relatively durable gemstone suitable for everyday wear. It is less prone to scratching and abrasion compared to softer gemstones. However, despite its hardness, alexandrite should still be handled with care to avoid damage.

Refractive Index and Brilliance:

Alexandrite has a moderately high refractive index, which contributes to its impressive brilliance and sparkle. When cut and faceted properly, the gemstone can exhibit excellent light reflection and dispersion, enhancing its overall visual impact.


Natural alexandrite is considered one of the rarest gemstones in the world. It is estimated that for every one million carats of diamond mined, only one carat of fine alexandrite is found. This scarcity adds to its value and desirability among collectors and gemstone enthusiasts.

Chromium Content:

The color-changing phenomenon in alexandrite is attributed to the presence of chromium in its crystal structure. Chromium is a trace element that absorbs specific wavelengths of light, resulting in the gemstone's green or red coloration. The intensity and quality of the color change are influenced by the amount of chromium present in the gemstone.

Heat Sensitivity:

Alexandrite can exhibit some heat sensitivity, meaning it may undergo a temporary alteration in color when exposed to high temperatures. However, once the gemstone cools down, it typically reverts to its original color. It is advisable to avoid exposing alexandrite to extreme heat or sudden temperature changes to preserve its color and quality.

These properties make alexandrite a highly prized and captivating gemstone, sought after by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts for its rarity, unique color-changing characteristics, and overall aesthetic appeal.

How Much Is Alexandrite Worth?

The value of alexandrite can vary significantly depending on several factors, including its color, color change, clarity, carat weight, cut, origin, and overall quality. Natural alexandrite is generally more valuable than synthetic or lab-grown alexandrite.

Due to its rarity and desirability, high-quality natural alexandrite can range in price from several thousand dollars per carat to tens of thousands of dollars per carat. Larger, top-quality alexandrite gemstones can reach even higher price points. Synthetic or lab-grown alexandrite is more affordable and typically priced at a fraction of the cost of natural alexandrite.

It's important to note that gemstone prices can fluctuate based on market conditions, availability, and individual seller pricing strategies. It is recommended to consult with reputable gemstone dealers or appraisers who can assess the specific characteristics of an alexandrite and provide a more accurate estimate of its value.

How To Tell If An Alexandrite Is Real?

Determining the authenticity of an alexandrite gemstone can be challenging, especially for those without specialized gemological knowledge. However, here are some methods that can help in assessing the authenticity of an alexandrite:

Seek Professional Evaluation:

Consulting with a reputable gemologist or a certified gemstone appraiser is the most reliable way to determine the authenticity of an alexandrite. These experts have the necessary equipment and expertise to conduct thorough tests and examinations.

Color Change:

Alexandrite's unique color-changing properties are a key characteristic of the gemstone. Natural alexandrite typically exhibits a noticeable shift in color from green or bluish-green in daylight or fluorescent light to red or purplish-red in incandescent light. If the color change is absent or minimal, it may indicate that the stone is not a genuine alexandrite.

Observe Pleochroism:

Alexandrite is pleochroic, meaning it displays different colors when viewed from different angles. Gently rotate the gemstone under a light source and observe any noticeable variations in color. If the stone does not exhibit pleochroism, it may not be a genuine alexandrite.

Refractive Index:

The refractive index (RI) of alexandrite can be measured using a refractometer. Natural alexandrite typically has a refractive index of around 1.745 to 1.755. Synthetic or lab-grown alexandrite may have slightly different refractive index values.


Natural alexandrite can exhibit weak to moderate fluorescence under ultraviolet (UV) light. Synthetic alexandrite may show stronger fluorescence. However, fluorescence alone is not a definitive test for authenticity.

Inclusion Patterns:

Natural alexandrite may contain characteristic inclusions, such as fine rutile needles or fingerprint-like growth patterns. These inclusions can help distinguish natural alexandrite from synthetic or imitation materials. However, it requires a trained eye and magnification to identify such inclusions.

It's important to note that these methods can provide initial indications but are not foolproof. Advanced laboratory testing, including spectroscopy or chemical analysis, may be necessary for conclusive identification.

To ensure the authenticity of an alexandrite, it is recommended to purchase gemstones from reputable and trustworthy sources who provide proper documentation, such as certificates of authenticity or gemological reports from recognized gemological laboratories.

The Alexandrite Is A Magical Find

Indeed, the discovery of alexandrite can be considered a magical find in the world of gemstones. Its captivating color-changing properties and rarity have bestowed it with a sense of enchantment and wonder.

The magical allure of alexandrite lies in its ability to transform and adapt, much like the mythical chameleon. Its mesmerizing color change from green to red symbolizes the harmonious balance between opposing forces, evoking a sense of mystery and transformation.

The rarity of alexandrite adds to its magical appeal. Its scarcity and limited natural sources make it a gemstone that is highly sought after and treasured by collectors and enthusiasts alike.

The color change of alexandrite has often been associated with metaphysical properties and spiritual meanings. It is believed to promote balance, harmony, and transformation in one's life. Some also consider alexandrite as a stone of good luck and fortune, bringing abundance and positive opportunities.

Moreover, alexandrite's captivating beauty and the sense of awe it inspires have made it a popular choice for jewelry pieces with a touch of magic. Whether it's a ring, necklace, or other adornments, wearing alexandrite jewelry can evoke a sense of enchantment and elegance.

While the magical properties of alexandrite are subjective and based on individual beliefs and interpretations, there is no denying the captivating and mystical nature of this extraordinary gemstone. Its rarity, color-changing phenomenon, and inherent beauty continue to captivate hearts and fuel the imagination, making it a truly magical find in the realm of gemstones.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, alexandrite is a rare and captivating gemstone renowned for its remarkable color-changing properties. Its ability to shift between shades of green, blue, and red depending on the lighting source has made it highly sought after by gem enthusiasts and collectors. Alexandrite's color change phenomenon, known as "the alexandrite effect," adds a touch of enchantment and intrigue to this extraordinary gem.

The discovery of alexandrite in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the early 19th century marked the beginning of its storied history. It quickly gained popularity and became treasured by the Russian nobility, earning its name after Tsar Alexander II. Today, natural alexandrite remains a rare and valuable gemstone, with high-quality specimens commanding premium prices in the market.

The properties of alexandrite, such as its color change, pleochroism, hardness, and rarity, contribute to its desirability and allure. While determining the authenticity of alexandrite can be challenging, consulting with a professional gemologist or relying on reputable sources is recommended.

Whether appreciated for its magical color-changing abilities, its symbolic meanings of balance, transformation, and good fortune, or its undeniable beauty, alexandrite continues to captivate hearts and inspire awe. This gemstone's timeless appeal and sense of enchantment make it a truly remarkable find in the world of gemstones.