Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday What Stone Is This - Alexandrite

In keeping with my apparent theme this month, I give you another June birthstone - Alexandrite.

Image courtesy of Gemplayer

The Gemstone Alexandrite is the color changing variety of the mineral Chrysoberyl. The June Birthstone, its color varies from red to green depending upon the light source. It is an alternate (modern) Zodiac stone for the constellation of Gemini.

This rare gemstone is named after the Russian tsar Alexander II (1818-1881), the very first crystals having been discovered in April 1834 in the emerald mines near the Tokovaya River in the Urals. The discovery was made on the day the future tsar came of age. The most sensational feature about this stone is its surprising ability to change its color. Although alexandrite is a relatively young gemstone, it certainly has a noble history. Since it shows both red and green, the principal colors of old Imperial Russia, it inevitably became the national stone of tsarist Russia. The notion of alexandrite as a widow stone of grief and misfortune probably originated in late 1940s after the end of World War II. A staggering 7,000,000 Soviet soldiers died in battle. Increased death and decreased birth rates attributable to the war probably meant the loss of another 8,000,000 lives at least. Almost every Russian family lost someone, usually a husband or a son. Taking to account that simulated alexandrite jewelry was very popular across the Soviet Union, (although almost all of it is was synthetic ), it isn't surprising that alexandrite became a symbol of misfortune in Soviet Union.

Russia has remained the primary source of alexandrite since gems from the mines of the Urals became available on the market. When the Russian deposits were thought to have been exhausted, interest in the unique color miracle decreased - especially since alexandrites from other mines hardly ever displayed the coveted color change. But the situation changed dramatically in 1987, when alexandrites were discovered in a place called Hematita in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Brazilian alexandrites showed both a distinctive color change and good clarity and color. The color of the Brazilian stones is admittedly not as strong a green as that of Russian alexandrite, but the color change is clearly discernible. Alexandrites are also obtained from sources in Sri Lanka, and the Tunduru area in southern Tanzania has also produced some outstanding specimens since the mid-1990s. Alexandrites are also found in India, Burma, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Chromium gives alexandrite its color and while, in most minerals, a trace element like chromium would provide only one color to the mineral, in alexandrite it gives it two! It differs from other chrysoberyls in that it not only contains iron and titanium, but also chromium as a major impurity. And it is this very element which accounts for the spectacular color change. Green or bluish-green in daylight, alexandrite turns a soft shade of red, purplish-red or raspberry red in incandescent light. This unique optical characteristic makes it one of the most valuable gemstones of all, especially in fine qualities. If the light is natural sunlight or fluorescent light, the crystal will be green; however, if the light is incandescent light from a common indoor light bulb, then the crystal will appear red.

Beautiful alexandrite in top quality, however, is very rare indeed and hardly ever used in modern jewelry. In antique Russian jewelry you may come across it with a little luck, since Russian master jewelers loved this stone. Smaller alexandrites were occasionally also used in Victorian jewelry from England. Synthetic corundums spiked with trace elements that yield an alexandrite-like color change are sold as alexandrite on the gemstone market. These stones have a red-violet, near-amethyst color in incandescent light and a blue-violet color in daylight. They are far cheaper than natural alexandrites, which are some of the rarest and most expensive of gemstones.

Alexandrite is a stone for experts, enthusiasts and connoisseurs, a true understatement stone. Its uniqueness and high value are not evident at first sight. The mysterious color change will only occur on exposure to different light sources. But if you really get involved in alexandrite, you will be utterly fascinated by this gem. Compared to rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds, alexandrite is a relatively new gemstone that was only discovered some 150 years ago. Despite its short history, this remarkable gem has already been ascribed with a variety of magical and mystical properties. It isn't surprising that various magical attributes have been associated with alexandrite. Alexandrite is offered as an alternative to pearl and therefore associated with the month of June. It is also suggested as the gemstone for a 55th wedding anniversary (sometimes also the 35th or 45th, in place of emerald.)

Alexandrite is associated with the planet Mercury -- the trickster. Alexandrite's ability to change color and its obviously dual nature is further associated with the zodiac sign of Gemini, which is a sign ruled by Mercury. The association with the sign of Gemini means that Alexandrite has a connection with the month of June as the sign covering the period between 21st May and 21st June. Mercury is the fastest moving of the planets. It shows how quickly we can change our thoughts, and how fast our thoughts travel. In occult thought, Mercury represents both the messenger and the magician. It connects the mortal or ego self, the intuitive, or lower self, and the higher divine self. As Mercury is associated with air, alexandrite is an air stone and so connected to the throat chakra. But, because of its duality in color, it has also been associated with the heart, the solar plexus, and the crown chakra. Mercury also represents the power of the mind, our ability to think, perceive, and communicate and it rules over the power of our words and how we use them. Alexandrite is said to help finding lost money and to bring luck in gambling.

Maybe you will also feel some of the mysterious magic and lore ascribed to it. It is considered a stone of very good omen. In critical situations it is supposed to strengthen the wearer’s intuition, and thus help him or her find new ways forward in situations where logic will not provide an answer. Alexandrite is also reputed to aid creativity and inspire the imagination. In magic, alexandrite can be used to cast spells that enhance communication, mental clarity, memory, and perception. It can be used in meditation, to promote emotional balance, and to bring about change, happiness, and success, also to help identify goals and plan how to begin working towards them. It is thought to be most powerful when the sun's rays are shining on it and is reportedly useful for astral travel.

Green is the color of revival, hope, prosperity, rest, peace, calm, and fertility where as red is the color of blood, energy, activity, self-expression, power, aggression, and passion. This combination means that alexandrite is a symbol of love and jealousy at the same time. In its daytime appearance, it corresponds to luck and good fortune and at night, its appearance is more closely associated with love. Some believe that an alexandrite in hand can help clarify doubts about love and marriage.

The cat's eye version of Alexandrite corresponds to the south node of the Moon. Cat's eye gemstones should be worn when there are obstacles in business, or a fear of accidents. They bring strength, brightness, bravery, pleasure, bliss, and prosperity.

The caduceus symbol used for doctors and medicine is also a Mercury symbol and Mercury is associated with healing and was originally the god of medicine. Therefore, alexandrite is a healing stone. It is specifically associated with balancing the mind and helping to achieve calm and is recommended as an anti stress and choleric amulet. Alexandrite is also purported to relieve spleen and pancreatic problems and to help treat swollen lymph nodes. Alexandrite is said to be useful for overcoming a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and a lack of direction or focus in life.

Alexandrite is the stone of duality. Green or red, good luck or misfortune, the significance is interpretive and related to the social and historical context of the time and the culture. Forever changing its colors, alexandrite is a magical gemstone with universal appeal


All That Gifts

Jewelry Mall

Alexandrite Gemstone Collectors Guide


Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader's personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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