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Alexandrite Guide

What is an Alexandrite?

Alexandrite is a color change-variety chrysoberyl and is considered one of the rarest gemstones in the world. In fact, in terms of rarity, Alexandrite may well outrank nearly all other known gemstones. Most quality Alexandrite gemstones are not readily available anywhere. However, we have many of our Alexandrite Stones available for sale.

Dual Colors

According to GIA, Alexandrite’s finest dual colors are a vivid grass green in daylight and fluorescent light, and an intense raspberry red in incandescent light.

Many modern sources frequently use “emerald by day, ruby by night.”  to romanticize Alexandrite’s color. Alexandrite is the month of June’s Birthstone. Alexandrite is also the 55th Wedding Anniversary Gemstone.

Valuable Qualities

The more apparent color change, the more valuable the Alexandrite. That is why the price of certain alexandrites are very expensive.

While Alexandrites come from many parts of the world, true quality ones share certain characteristics and have been “coveted as one of the rarest and most cherished gemstones of all.” (See AGTA).

Alexandrite Stone Lab Definitions

American Gemological Laboratories (AGL)
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An Alexandrite stone is a Chrysoberyl where the dominant hue distinctly changes under different lighting conditions. **Color-Shift as opposed to Color-Change: Chrysoberyl (not classified as alexandrite) that displays a more subtle modification.

Christian Dunaigre (C.D.)
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An Alexandrite stone will be a chromium bearing colour-change Chrysoberyl (colour- change: main hue in daylight differs from that seen in incandescent light).

Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
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Any color change (not shift) makes Chrysoberyl into Alexandrite stone.

GemResearch Swiss Lab (GRS)
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Alexandrite stone: is a chromium bearing colour-change Chrysoberyl.

Gübelin Gem Lab (GUB)
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An Alexandrite stone is a variety of gem Chrysoberyl, which changes its main hue from daylight to incandescent light.

True History Of Alexandrites

The origins of the first Russian Alexandrite (Chrysoberyl with strong change) require official credit to a person named Yakov Vasilevich Kokovin, or Y.A. Kokovin. According to gem historian Richard A. Wise, Kokovin was the Russian Ural Mountain Mine Manager around the 1800s. (Wise, 2016).

Wise’s reference to Kokovin, albeit brief, is to our knowledge, one of the only publications that one person credit for alexandrite’s discovery. Wise’s source for this fact is the book “Russian Alexandrites.”
Recently, Kokovin’s contribution was formally acknowledged in an article titled “Gem of the Tsars Alexandrite from the Urals” by the ICA’s InColor Fall 2019 Publication Issue 44 (see Page 24, “It is clear then that Yakov Kokovin should be considered the discoverer of the Ural alexandrites, which was recognized by a number of other researchers.”).

In the book “Russian Alexandrites” by Karl Schmetzer, some of the contributors: George Bosshart, Marina Epelboym, Dr. Lore Kiefert, and Anna-Kathrin Malsy set out to investigate the roots of Alexandrite’s naming in Russia.

Russia's Controversial Alexandrite History

After combing through the book for Kokovin’s name, it appeared that documents supported the idea that Kokovin’s contributions to Russia during his life were large. (Schmetzer K. , 2010).  However, controversy surrounded the recorded history of what happened to him. Some research suggests that he misjudged high value emeralds he oversaw. (Schmetzer K. , 2010). Again, it is unclear whether this was true or not. The reason for Kokovin being relieved of his duties is still speculated. Kokivin was even imprisoned.

In fact, “his health was poor as a consequence of losing his position and all the honor bestowed on him for his work as a lapidary artist and stone cutter…” Id.  Kokovin’s downfall took place with the knowledge of Alexander’s father, Tsar Nicholas Id. Moreover, Kokovin shared a well-documented animosity with another central character behind Alexandrite’s first recorded discovery: Count L.A. Perovskii.

Discovery of The First Russian Alexandrite

The earliest documented connection to the discovery of alexandrite in Russia came from the Russian Imperial Mineralogical Society (Established in 1817). (Schmetzer, 2010). The discovery of the first Russian Alexandrite itself has divergent origins. This is even clear from GIA’s own characterization of Alexandrite’s origin: “discovered in 1830 by miners in the Ural Mountains of Russia…” (GIA, 2018) (Emphasis Added). The fact that an institution like GIA simply uses “miners” to credit discovery further shows the ambiguity behind crediting someone for the new variety designation.Besides the difficulty in narrowing the exact individual who mined it, an alexandrite’s chameleon type attribute would further complicate realizing its true identity. This complication is due to the fact that Chrysoberyl (the mineral Alexandrite falls under) had been already discovered prior to 1830.
Therefore, in order to distinguish chrysoberyl from beryl or emerald, a second person (besides the actual miner) would have to have some mineral knowledge in general or about Alexandrites. It appears that after identifying it as chrysoberyl, and seeing that the chrysoberyl underwent color change, the questions arises as to who had the eureka moment of coining the new varietal name. Given these nuanced circumstances, you can imagine crediting a single individual as responsible for discovering the first alexandrite in Russia to be tricky. On the one hand, one could say that finding the mineral itself would mean credit for discovery. On the other hand, some might say that taking the steps to determine that it was simply chrysoberyl with prominent color would warrant credit.

The Whitney Alexandrite

The Whitney Alexandrite is a cushion-cut stone originally from the Hematita Mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Some of the finest Alexandrite Gemstones come from Brazil. It was gifted to the National Gem Collection by Coralyn Wright Whitney. One of the finest Brazilian Alexandrites, The “Whitney Alexandrite” can be found at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Weight: 17.08 carats. Estimated Value: Unknown. Its finest dual colors are a bluish-green in daylight and fluorescent light, and an intense purple, pink, or red in incandescent light. Color change is the defining characteristic that distinguishes alexandrite from other chrysoberyl varieties. While other minerals—can display color change, few show such vivid saturated color change as fine alexandrite.
For this reason, the color-change phenomenon itself is called “the alexandrite effect.” Today, most, if not all, Alexandrites you might see in jewelry do not come from Russia. We occasionally have some Russian Alexandrites from sale. One of the ones we currently have can be seen here.A lot of Alexandrite research continues to use the following descriptions: “Emerald by day, Amethyst by night” or even “Emerald by day, Ruby by night.” However, contrary to this cliché, the reality is that such dramatic color shift is the rarest type you can find.Although we often see references to Alexandrite changing from a green to red, in reality this type of color change in Alexandrite is so rare as to be non-existent.

Where did the name “Alexandrite” come from?

By many accounts and published sources, Finnish mineralogist, Nils Gustaf Nordenskjold, is credited with finding the first samples of Alexandrite material in Russian emerald mines. (AGL, 2008). Consistent online and physical resources further suggest that Nordenskiöld (sometimes spelled Nordenskjold) came up with the suggestion of the actual name variation “Alexandrite.” Currently, this remains to be the most consistent story: that the name Alexandrite was Nordenskjold’s idea.

The story stems from Nordenskjold coining the name Alexandrite after being inspired by the future tsar Alexander’s birthday celebration in the Ural Mountains area where the stone was found. Over the course of the book “Russian Alexandrites”, the Nordenskjold’s family archive is reviewed along with correspondence written by him. In the book they report that, prior to 1842, the researchers say they were unable to find the word “Alexandrite” in letters written by Nordenskjold. In fact, there is some suspicion surrounding the Russian authorities at the time being involved with censorship. (Schmetzer K. , 2010) You can imagine the dramatic control the government had over the country given the future demise of Tsar Alexander.

Alexandrite Auction History

One of the most expensive Alexandrites from Sri Lanka was sold for at the Magnificent Jewels New York Auction for $557,000.00. At 18.23 carats, the price would be just over $30,000 per carat.The stone included a supplemental letter from the American Gemological Laboratories attesting to the rarity and prestige of the alexandrite.
Over the years, some of the largest known Alexandrites have been sold at the Christie’s Auction. Here are some of the most notable ones: One of the largest Alexandrites from Brazil sold over 10 years ago.In October 2007, Magnificent Jewels Auction New York, at a whopping 19.05 carats, The Alexandrite and Diamond Ring sold for $959,400.
4 years later, a slightly smaller Alexandrite from Brazil would fetch an even higher price. In the Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels Auction, an Alexandrite and Diamond Ring weighing 15.58 carats sold for 7,220,000 HKD, the equivalent of $931,000 or just under $60,000 per carat! In 2017, at 9.99 carats, another Alexandrite from Brazil sold for $313,000.00.

Alexandrite Origins

Origins are best left for an independent lab to determine. Additionally, it has been known that imitation alexandrites have been sold over the last 100 years. These synthetic or lab created alexandrites can be difficult to distinguish without proper equipment. Our experience has led us to conclude that color alone can be extremely helpful in ruling out origins. On the one hand, certain colors can be indicative of where an Alexandrite comes from. On the other hand, certain colors are good evidence of where it is not from. For example, a brown color modifier  will rule out Brazil as an origin. Again, this is our opinion only.

Many sources assume that gemstones from the African Continent will always generally have a darker or browner tone. This presumption ignores the fact that some of the finest Alexandrites produced in the market today have come from Madagascar, and can have a Blue-Green Color under daylight. Lower quality Alexandrites from Madagascar can have brown dominant colors.

Typically, muddy green color often seen under daylight, will almost always have a brown modifier under incandescent light. The best quality Alexandrites from Madagascar will always appear green dominant. The purity of the green is preferably modified with a bluish tone. The purple will also have pink-purple intensity that rivals top quality Alexandrites from other regions.

Sometimes Alexandrites from Madagascar will be given "East Africa" for origin.

Indian Alexandrites are know for a distinct pure green dominant daylight appearance. Some of our gemstone mining connections in India have informed us that most Indian Alexandrites coming from the Orissa mine, come in smaller melee sizes ( < 0.5 cts.).The daylight color usually appears in a richer grassy green hue.

The incandescent color is typically not as dramatic in its purple.In fact, the purple intensity can be described as medium to light in saturation. Notwithstanding the limited production, an occasional blue-green to rich purple Alexandrite from India will surface.

Commonly referred to as the “Island of Gems” it is no surprise that the famous exotic country produces Alexandrites. Alexandrites from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) tend to have yellowish-green appearance in daylight. Sri Lankan Alexandrites are also usually larger than Alexandrites found in other countries. Although larger, they won’t typically have strong color change.

The few larger size Alexandrites with strong color change from Sri Lanka remain extraordinarily scarce. Our experience over time has shown us that distinguishing Madagascar and Ceylon Alexandrites is very difficult. The reality is that local suppliers source rough alexandrite from Madagascar and cut the material in Sri Lanka. Once polished, suppliers may lose track of a material’s actual source. This leaves labs in the best position to determine the origin by making the distinction between Madagascar and Ceylon. Yellowish-Green Alexandrites from Sri Lanka will often have the same lighter hue modifier under incandescent light.

The most prized origin of Alexandrite. Russian Alexandrites are known to come from the Ural mountains.Finding gem quality Alexandrite over 1 carat from Russia today is extraordinarily difficult.The rough that comes from Russia is usually Emerald, and any presence of Alexandrite is usually poor quality. Many commentaries refer to Alexandrite as “Emerald by day, Ruby by night,” are likely to be referring to Russian Alexandrites that show such dramatic color change.

Russian Alexandrites with blue-green colors can be confused with any source.Old cutting, or faceting may lend credit to origin identification. An absence of inclusions will also make it difficult for identifying Russian material.We suggest relying on two lab reports to confirm any Alexandrite with Russian Origin.

Recent war and international sanctions has made distribution of Russian Alexandrites problematic.

Tanzanian Alexandrites remain elusive. Labs have difficulties classifying this origin due to its strikingly similar characteristics of both Brazil and Madagascar. Alexandrites from Tanzania in our experience usually display a lighter Mediterranean Bluish-Green color under daylight. Under incandescent light, the Tanzanian Alexandrites that we have seen nearly always show a dramatic color change.

During one of our most recent trips to the country, sources dismissed the notion of finding more Alexandrites in any local mines. Most Alexandrites from Tanzania came from Lake Manyara in the north and Tunduru in the south. (Source GIA).

Similar to Madagascar, labs will sometimes classify 'East Africa' as the origin on Tanzanian Alexandrites.

In the early 1980’s, a significant mine of Alexandrite deposits was discovered in Brazil. Commonly referred to as the “Hematita” mine, the discovery immediately led to an influx of independent miners to the area. Other areas include Bahia and Espírito Santo, but are of lower quality Alexandrites. One can say this was the “Gold Rush” of Alexandrites that quickly dwindled out after 12 weeks of digging (Source: Richard W. Wise, Secrets of The Gemstone Trade, 2016). Top quality Brazilian Alexandrites appears rich bluish-green under daylight, and transforms into an intense purple in incandescent light.

Although labs will never rely on appearance alone to classify this origin, once you see a Brazilian Alexandrite, its specific color becomes a unique hue in your color palette. This is what it looks like. Since the discovery of the deposit, production of  over 1 Carat Quality Size Alexandrites has been nearly extinct.

Since COVID-19, the mining of Alexandrite in Brazil has been extremely limited. Recent auction history further shows that large material is also becoming less present in public.

Shop Alexandrites Now
Those in the trade know that a gemstone’s desire is sometimes inextricably tied to its origin. Blue Sapphires have Kashmir. Rubies have Burma, and Paraiba Tourmalines have Brazil. One could argue that for Alexandrites this would be Russia, but the truth is that the current most exceptional looking Alexandrites are from Brazil. From a strictly color-change point of view, you be the judge of whether the Russian Alexandrite or Brazilian Alexandrite is more impressive. Unlike its “green to red” folktale Russian counterpart, the Brazilian Alexandrite displays an awesome bluish-green color under white light, and magically changes to a deep rich purple under incandescent light. The Brazilian Alexandrite has yet to be fully appreciated by the gem world. This is probably due to its exorbitant price.
Good-quality, carat-size Alexandrites from Brazil can exceed Diamond carat-size equivalents. The current major Alexandrite sources include: Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and India. However, it appears that quality Alexandrite is becoming more and more difficult to find everywhere. Additionally, like the Russian Alexandrite, the Brazilian Alexandrite has already steadily declined in quality production. While origin can seem important in buying an Alexandrite, labs will likely charge extra for this determination. It may be worth the additional fee for someone claiming an Alexandrite is from Brazil, or Russia. However, a reputable lab report is essential for truly identifying the stone as natural without any treatments.

Classifying Alexandrites

The original reference to qualify an Alexandrite, as a Chrysoberyl that changes from green to red, is far too restrictive.“ A more apt description would indicate something like ‘greenish’ in fluorescent light and ‘reddish’ under incandescent light,” says Christopher Smith of American Gemological Laboratories (AGL). “Even though the full range of colors possible is more expansive than that.” Christian Dunaigre, who currently manages his own gem laboratory in Thailand as well as one of the only on-site mobile gem testing services, also believes finding an Alexandrite with a “pure ruby red” color is nearly impossible.

Moreover, Mr. Dunaigre thinks most Alexandrites have modifiers and seldom have pure changes that are limited to one hue. Although anecdotal, you can probably go to any gem trade show and ask to see an Alexandrite lab report (commonly referred to as a “certificate”) of any type and discover this yourself.
Gem identification reports almost never limit themselves to just one color when describing the color shift under white (daylight) light and incandescent light (lamp yellow light). Common examples include: Bluish Green to Purple, Green to Greyish-Purple, Green Blue to Purplish Red, Yellowish-Green to Brownish Purple, Green to Purplish Pink, and many other 2 to 1 and 1 to 2 type color changes. My doubts about finding a purely red Alexandrite were even further solidified by Gübelin’s own Dr. Anna Malsy. Dr.Malsy has written extensively about colored gemstones, and has published a thorough article discussing how to identify the difference between synthetic Alexandrites and genuine Alexandrites.

She described seeing “purple, reddish-purple or purplish-red” Alexandrites, but hardly ever seeing purely red ones. Like Diamonds, there are additional C’s that can be used in guiding yourself to Alexandrite. Besides Clarity, Carat, and Cut, you also have color Change (instead of just color) and Classification (Lab Classification).

Ideal Lighting Conditions to See Alexandrite’s Color Change


White/daylight to see the first color (ideally green with a blue/ brown/yellow modifier). The Lab Manual Harmonisation Committee (LMHC) suggests the daylight corresponding to a range between “5500K to 6500K.”


Yellow/warm light to see the second color change (red, purple, pink with various possible modifiers such as brown, yellow, orange). LMHC suggest comparison of incandescent light corresponding to a range between “2700K and 3600K.
View Video Of Colors Changing

Why The Rare Gem?

We understand that the decision to acquire any colored gemstone should not be taken lightly. We take our AGTA and I.C.A. Memberships seriously, and believe in going beyond obligatory ethical disclosure. Most recently, we’ve been accredited as an ICA Ethical Member.

We believe in educating the consumer immediately as we ourselves garner exclusive gem trade related information. Our philosophy is fully informed-educated disclosure. This is our commitment to go beyond FTC rules and guidelines for gemstone sellers. That is, giving you and explaining to you information in plain english. Besides giving you information, we emphasize gathering as much information as possible. Never rely on someone’s own assessment of any gemstone.

Why Vespertine Alexandrites?

We understand that the decision to acquire any colored gemstone should not be taken lightly. We take our AGTA and I.C.A. Memberships seriously, and believe in going beyond obligatory ethical disclosure. Most recently, we’ve been accredited as an ICA Ethical Member.

We believe in educating the consumer immediately as we ourselves garner exclusive gem trade related information. Our philosophy is fully informed-educated disclosure. This is our commitment to go beyond FTC rules and guidelines for gemstone sellers. That is, giving you and explaining to you information in plain english. Besides giving you information, we emphasize gathering as much information as possible. Never rely on someone’s own assessment of any gemstone.

The reality is that very few gemstones rise to this level of being a collectible. While every Alexandrite with quality color change is in fact collection worthy. We guarantee each Vespertine Alexandrite® to be one-of-a-kind. Each year we cap the amount of Vespertine Alexandrites® we release.

We stand by a promise of rarity in its purest form. Our lifetime return policy guarantees that an identical alexandrite with the same weight, color, shape and origin will not be found elsewhere. Rest assured that each Vespertine Alexandrite® is unique in its own right, and is confidentially supported by two internationally recognized reputable laboratories. In 2019, we will release only a limited number of these Vespertine Alexandrites® Become part of our first legacy, and own rarity that will be cherished for generations.