You would not find other gemstones with more unusual coloration than an alexandrite. Apart from his special origin — far away in the Ural mountains of Russia — his extraordinary color change and vivid hues of red and green remind how unique the world around us is. Natural alexandrites are really expensive but fine lab-created stones feature the same qualities as natural ones. And most importantly they are affordable for people who have always wanted to have this beauty. In this article, we will answer all the questions you may have while thinking to have an engagement ring with this out-of-the-kind gemstone.
What distinguishes the alexandrite from other gemstones?
Alexandrite is a natural variation of the mineral chrysoberyl. Its main and rare feature is the color changing. If a chrysoberyl stone displays “switches” from red to green under different light sources, it’s called an alexandrite. There are other kinds of chrysoberyls, for example, ordinary yellow-to-green chrysoberyl as well as cymophane also called cat’s eye.
Nonetheless, not only alexandrites can change their color: so, some garnets and rare types of sapphire have color-changing abilities as well. But only alexandrite can show a very distinct color change. Some of the finest quality alexandrites change their color from bright traffic green to traffic red.
t was 1830 when the first alexandrite deposits were discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains. The changing color mineral as in the pictures above was a huge hit. The gem’s namesake is young Alexander II, heir apparent to the throne at the time.
Is alexandrite more valuable than other precious stones? Or are diamonds more valuable?
Professional gemologists no longer call stones precious and semiprecious. Gem cutters and dealers use other classification: they differ between diamonds and colored stones. The diamond industry makes the public believe that diamonds are incredibly rare. But in fact, colored gems such as alexandrites are far rarer than diamonds and easily can be more expensive.
What makes an alexandrite really valuable?
Several factors affect the price of natural & lab-created alexandrites:
- Its color change has to be very clear, and its hues — very bright: from green to bluish-green in daylight and from red to purplish-red in incandescent light. Very light alexandrites don’t reach this intensity of colors. Very dark stones don’t display this brightness and appear almost black. Both of them are less valuable in comparison to bright clear alexandrites.
- The most intense color change showed the natural alexandrites of the Russian Ural mountains but nowadays their production is very limited. Alexandrites from Brazil have been found in colors that rival the Russian material, but production from Brazil has also decreased. Hence, the price of Russian and Brazilian stones can rise extremely.
- Good quality natural alexandrites have few inclusions and lab created stones don’t have them at all. Fewer inclusions, good color change, and strong colors arise the value of alexandrite.
- The larger size of a fine quality alexandrite affects the price because such size is very rare for natural stones. “Larger” for alexandrites means bigger than a carat: the size up to a carat is often used for them in jewelry. If we speak about lab created alexandrites, they actually can be of any size.
- Alexandrite’s color makes it a challenge for cutters. They cut the gem to show the strongest color change. A good cut always increases the value of a stone.
Natural vs. Treated vs. Lab Created vs. Fake: How are they different?
Let us distinguish between natural stones, treated ones, lab-created ones, and imitations.
- Natural stones form in nature and take millions of years for it. They are rare, hence, they are much more valuable than other types of stones.
- Today, most natural gems are treated in a lab to improve their color and clarity. And opinions on gem treatments vary widely: some believe that any alteration makes a stone “unnatural”, others — that any stones from the earth are natural, regardless of how humans have altered it. Until now there is no consensus here. The main point is that untreated natural stones are extracted from the earth, remain in their original form & color, and only get polished and cut. Natural alexandrites of fine quality are rare and expensive.
- Lab-created stones or synthetic (also called “artificial,” “lab-grown,” “lab-made,” “man-made,” etc.) are logically created in laboratories, not in nature. They are created by methods different from natural conditions but display the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as natural stones (and often better than a low-quality natural stone). The biggest difference between lab-created and natural stones is that synthetic alexandrites are much more affordable when matched for size and quality against natural ones.
- Fakes (or simulated, simulants, faux, and imitations) are made from materials resembling the appearance of a natural gemstone: usually, it’s glass or plastic, but can be more expensive materials, even other natural inexpensive stones. For sure, stimulants will have different chemical and physical properties and are often less durable.
Why would I buy lab-created alexandrites?
“Natural” does not necessarily mean “fine quality”. A lot of natural gemstones may have several flaws (inclusions, coloration) that detract from their beauty. The color of an average natural alexandrite can easily appear dull and unattractive.
High-quality natural alexandrites do exist, but they are rare and very expensive. This is why synthetic alexandrites were created – they are more affordable, just as durable, and there is quite a variety of them. Besides, lab-created alexandrites will have few flaws and nearly perfect clarity.
As for the value, keep in mind that not all lab-created alexandrites are of the same quality – high-quality stones can be tens of times as expensive as low-quality ones.
How to understand if an alexandrite is natural or lab-created?
Honestly, it is impossible for the naked eye to see the difference between lab-created stones and natural ones. There is no reliable way to do it without professional gemological devices developed by GIA and other organizations. Traditional gemological observations and old-style “diamond detectors” are not able to tell modern synthetic stones apart. So, the fair answer here will be: only under a microscope of a special kind.
OK then, but how to tell the difference between lab-created alexandrites and other alike gemstones? how to detect fakes?
Yes, there are so-called alexandrites on the market that are not alexandrites at all, but for example, synthetic corundum doped with vanadium. Also, a chrysoberyl is not the same as alexandrite (even though alexandrite is a variety of chrysoberyl) but ignorant or dishonest sellers can call him so. Lastly, there’s a lot of synthetic sapphire with added vanadium that is used to fake alexandrite.
So, make sure that:
- you buy your lab synthetic alexandrite from a reputable jeweler;
- you get a GIA, or preferably AGL, report on authenticity of your synthetic alexandrite;
sometimes you even will be able to tell corundum from a lab-created alexandrite with the nacked eye: corundum will have a purple to pink color shift rather than purple to blue/green. Color shift corundum is not an alexandrite.
Why an engagement ring with a lab-created alexandrite
German musician Tom Kaulitz presented for her fiancee model Heidi Klum, a very special engagement ring (in the picture on Heidi’s left hand). “He knew Heidi’s favorite color was green, so he searched for the perfect green stone, an alexandrite, and then found the perfect diamonds to accentuate it,” explained Tom’s friend to PEOPLE magazine.
Is an alexandrite a good option for an engagement ring?
Alexandrite ranks just under sapphire and ruby with its 8.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, and it means it’s still very durable: any gemstone above a 7 generally will be hard to scratch. Apart from its out-of-the-kind coloration, it will be a smart choice for long-term wear like an engagement ring.
What is a nice cut of a lab-created alexandrite that shows off its color change beautifully in a ring?
You will find alexandrites are cut in a way that is usually called a mixed cut. It’s a mix from brilliant & other cuts like step-cut or oval. It’s mixed to demonstrate color change with intense colors & clarity.
Do you have some designs to suggest?
We will embody any design you desire. At the very beginning, you have to think about whether your alexandrite will be the centerpiece of a ring? or an accent stone?
A lab-created alexandrite is a great option for a big centerpiece. We sell many vivid & colorful synthetic alexandrites of a quite big size with a certificate.
If you like alexandrites as delicate accents, decide which stone will be the centerpiece. Colored accented alexandrites look great with sparkling diamonds or other transparent stoners.
One of the most beloved options among brides is an alexandrite in three stones or trellis ring. It works perfectly with both center- and accented alexandrites and adds an extra touch: you can enjoy the beauty of these colorful gemstones from the side as much as from any angle. The trellis ring fits every budget: for example, you can choose a striking large alexandrite as a centerpiece and affordable yet great-looking sparkling moissanites as side stones.
Are there some alternatives to an alexandrite that you would like to recommend?
There are some lab-created gemstones that have notable color changes as well. Apart from the “key example” alexandrite, which classically has a strong red-to-green coloration, other stones will probably show less bright change from purplish-red to bluish-green.
For example, there are lab-created sapphires with the addition of vanadium. They have a color change similar to alexandrite but not as bright: they change less pronounced from bluish to reddish. Besides, it will be a good option because sapphires come in many colors and here you can choose your favorite hue.
Spinels are also a good choice and similarly come in many colors. You can also consider the nearest relative of an alexandrite — a green or yellow chrysoberyl. Those are the stones that are pretty enough for everyday wear.
What to know before choosing an alexandrite ring
Why is it important to have a certificate for an alexandrite?
Any independent non-seller verifications about your gemstone always add value to it.
It’s always worth having a GIA Certificate if you are thinking of the stone as an investment or heritage option. You can buy the AIGS if you just want to make sure your alexandrite is real and exclude any treatment with him in case it’s natural.
This oval cut is common for alexandrites and it’s perfect for engagement rings
Is it a good idea to purchase alexandrite online?
Yes, you can try to purchase alexandrite online. However, in this case you have to be totally sure that you’re buying from a reputable store. Keep in mind that a lab created alexandrite of fine quality can be more expensive than many natural stones. Just search for a trusted store and don’t buy on the marketplaces where the price of a “real” alexandrite seems to be too good to be true. There are more than 90% of imitations on the market and to the naked eye, it’s difficult to tell the difference.
As for us, we are sure our gemstone dealer is a reliable and safe one on the jewelry market. He has a strong guarantee and return policy. Our stones have GIA certificates and we know they are of the best quality what can be found nowadays. That’s why we don’t work with stones bought from other jewelers or online. The only exception if a stone is a family heirloom.
Together with quality lab-created alexandrite purchased from us, you will have the fullest information about the stone, the certificate, and even more: you will be directly involved in the creation process and the beauty will be born in front of your eyes. Contact us directly here and we will give you all the information about the quality of our stones and create with you the most stunning design for your alexandrite ring.