Welcome to my very first post in The Blogging From A To Z April Challenge for 2022. My topic is Gems, Minerals and Rocks. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts. It looks to be a very busy A to Z month!
A is for Alexandrite
The first thing I will say about the adornments we use to make jewelry is that everything seems to have many different names. It can be confusing.
Alexandrite is a beautiful gemstone that belongs to the Chrysoberyl family of minerals. It is a rare gemstone and often more valuable than a diamond. It is a hard stone (8.5) with a hardness exceeded only by diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.
Discovered in the Ural mountains of Russia around the 1830s, alexandrite is unique in that it changes colors in different types of light. The science is complex, but under different lighting, the colors change. Basically, the color change has to do with the way the mineral absorbs and reflects certain colors of light. Depending on where the gemstone was mined, the colors will differ. The most stark color change (especially in stones mined in Russia) is from bluish green to a redish purple. The more prominent the color change, the more valuable the stone.
Being humans and doing what we do, much of the high quality Russian alexandrite has been mined out although they may be creating lab grown stones. Other deposits have been found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Madagascar.
Alexandrite has been added as a birthstone for the month of June. Good luck if you are thinking of buying one for a birthstone ring. The stones are rare and extremely expensive IF you could buy one. I checked for a rectangular stone, 6mm by 9mm and the price ranged from $4,000 to $97,000. In gem auctions, pristeen alexandrites set in finished pieces have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Not that I could ever afford to cut my own alexandrite, but if I do strike it rich some day, I do not need to worry about the toxicity of this mineral when cutting. Gemstones are cut using water to provide lubrication and to minimize the dust created from grinding or cutting the stone. As a precaution, you should always wear a protective mask when doing lapidary work – especially if there are toxicity concerns.
When I first started making silver jewelry, I made my daughter a ring with a round 10mm simulated alexandrite which cost me less than $20.00. It was of course not alexandrite at all, but simulated from a lab-created corundum.
I used half-round silver wire, with a round basket in which to set the stone. This simulated stone does not really have a complete color change, but does have flecks of both green and purple. I apologize in advance for the quality of the photo – I took this photo a VERY LONG time ago with an old cell phone.
There is a famous alexandrite held at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution – The Whitney Alexandrite. Click here to see this gorgeous stone. The photos show the different colors depending on the light source.