Home Gemstones Alexandrite Explained: Why Designers Are Digging June’s Most Precious Birthstone
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Alexandrite Explained: Why Designers Are Digging June’s Most Precious Birthstone

Remember the color-changing mood rings of our youth? The ones where seeing red meant you were afraid and a bloom of green meant you were calm as a clam? Well, alexandrite is the equivalent of the grown-up (and far more elevated) version of these rings, with a caveat. This rather rare gemstone doesn’t change colors based on your mood, but rather the lighting you’re standing under.

Part of the June birthstone trifecta that includes moonstone and pearl, alexandrite is a variety of the mineral chrysoberyl that can show different colors when viewed at different angles. This stone typically looks bluish-green in the daylight, but gives off a purplish-red hue in incandescent light.

“I’m in awe of how nature has created this color-change gem,” says Annie Chen, vice president of merchandising at Brilliant Earth, which offers alexandrite in toi and moi rings (see below) and other trend-driven styles. “Both the colors in the change are so vibrant and beautiful.”

Brilliant Earth London blue topaz and lab alexandrite (right) cocktail ring, $1,690

Deposits of alexandrite were first discovered in 1830 in the Ural Mountains of Russia, but now most of this gemstone is sourced from  Brazil, India, East Africa, and Sri Lanka. While alexandrite tends to possess high clarity, there are some versions that have long and thin inclusions that can create a phenomenon called chatoyancy—or a cat’s-eye effect—which increases the value of already-pricey alexandrite.

“When it comes to alexandrite specifically, there are dramatic price differences based on the gemstone’s origin—Russian, Brazilian, or Indian,” shares Niveet Nagpal, president of Omi Privé. “The most important quality factor when determining the value of an alexandrite is its color change, caused by the complex way this mineral absorbs light. All other things being equal, the more dramatic the color change, the higher the value. Fine quality stones over one carat are exceptionally rare.”

Haverhill Greenwich alexandrite and diamond earrings, $825

While diamonds rank a 10 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, alexandrite isn’t far behind at 8.5 out of 10. This durability, as well as ease of maintenance, make it a great option for engagement rings or as a unique alternative to other gemstone jewels.

“I love using alexandrite melee as an accent to spinel, green tourmalines, and moonstones,” says Nagpal. “The color change of the alexandrite sometimes complements or contrasts with the center gemstone depending on the lighting. It gives the wearer a unique and different look at different times of the day.”

Mark Henry Guinevere alexandrite and diamond hoop earrings, $8,250

Top Photo: Omi Privé Blue tourmaline, spinel, alexandrite & diamond 3-stone ring, price upon request

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