Emeralds emanate, Ruby’s shine, and Diamonds sparkle, but only Alexandrite has a mystical color morphing quality that makes the gem seem otherworldly. The stone produces a dazzling display of green and red hues known as the “Alexandrite Effect.” At first glance, this seems like a magic trick, but it's totally natural, and just a bit of chemistry. If you ever wondered “why does Alexandrite change colors?” feel free to read on.
Alexandrite produces a kaleidoscope of colors that can change between emerald green, ruby red, amber-brown, and plush purples. This color-changing property is possible by the traces of the mineral “Chromium'' found in the gem. Chromium is absorbent to light within the yellow and blue wavelengths. An everyday example of a light source that radiates yellow wavelengths is the light emitted from the sun, and blue wavelengths emanate from fluorescent light bulbs. When Alexandrite is lit in different conditions the gem will illuminate a unique color based on the lighting conditions. (Candlelights, sunlight, studio light, etc.)
Interestingly enough, Alexandrite is a rare gemstone that is fairly new to the market. It was discovered in the 19th Century and does not share the ancient lore and history of most other gems. The story behind the Alexandrite's discovery takes place in the 1830s when a mineralogist discovered a new gem in Russia's Ural Mountains. At first, he mistook it for an emerald. Because emeralds and alexandrite have the same chemical composition, they belong to the same gem family called “chrysoberyl.” But once the sun set on the mineralogist and the stone was lit by candlelight, its greenish hue faded away and a vivid purplish-red appeared. The gem would go on to become highly sought after and to this day is rarer than diamonds.
Alexandrite is a fascinating gem because it can morph to match the colors of the environment in which it's placed. The next time you see an Alexandrite, take the time to appreciate this quality! Because of this uniqueness, alexandrite is a popular choice for jewelry, but it's not always easy to find. If you're looking for an alexandrite ring, check out our top picks here.