Formed millions of years ago when the earth was a molten mass, one of the most rare of gems, natural Alexandrite has a mysterious and sinuous history woven through the mystique of explorers, czars, princesses and emperors.
Hidden for millennium deep within the earth’s crust, Alexandrite first came to light in the 19th century. Discovered by a now unknown farmer in the outposts of the Urals, a single glowing green crystal was found under the roots of a stunted tree. This crystal was thought to be an emerald- queen of the empire’s jewels. Other glowing crystals were discovered in the same region and hidden in the Empress Ekaterina’s private jewel vaults. Unknown to her, a lowly caretaker of the royal vaults sold some of these glowing crystals at a high price to a visiting German Prince who had them cut and set into magnificent settings for his wife, the Princess. The Princess bejeweled herself with her Alexandrite ring, Alexandrite earrings, natural Alexandrite and white gold tiara, and a many Alexandrite and diamond bejeweled necklace. All the Alexandrite gemstones were set in glorious settings.
On a later date in the middle of the 19th century, the Princess, wearing her Alexandrite jewelry, and the Empress met at a grand ball. Happenstance declared itself as the Empress admired the breathtaking jewels of the Princess, and the Princess declared they were from Russia, with love, from the Prince. It was noticed, that in the torchlight, the jewels glowed a purple red.
Seething with anger that these glowing jewels were not hers, the Empress sent envoys to her Royal Jewel Vaults and discovered more of these gems hidden away in the recesses of the vault. The caretaker was imprisoned and executed, the rest of the ‘Emerald’s were brought out to light where it was discovered that they too changed from a cool, Mediterranean blue-green in the light of the day, to a hot, smoldering purple red in torchlight.
Alexander Nikolayevich (1818-1881) became Emperor of all Imperial Russia in the middle of the 19th century suceeding Ekaterina. His sweeping reforms earned him the love of the people and the hate of the nobility. Alexander sold Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the United States and by doing so earned the enmity of revolutionary students- one of whom threw a bomb that mortally wounded the Czar.
Born in the middle 1800’s, Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskjold was a Finnish-Swedish mineralogist and world famous explorer of the Northeast Passage. He collected rare and unusual minerals from Finland and Russia. Forced from his homeland, Finland, for his political views, he explored the Artic for the Swedish and pushed far into northern icey waters. During the last ten years of his life he wrote profusely about his travels and finds. It was at this time, late in the 19th century and the cusp of the 20th century, that he classified the mysterious color changing gem from Russia and named it after the Emperor he admired and who had died for the cause of his country: Czar Alexander II.
Steeped in mystery, Alexandrite continues to mystify and capture the attention of royalty, scientists, gemologists, and gem lovers alike. Pushed through alluvial molten rock over tens of thousands of years Alexandrite contains iron and titanium as well as the elements of chromium and beryllium: a combination of chemical elements that had not been found together before. Alexandrite’s unique optical qualities as well as its hardness (8.5 Mohs) has made it the most sought after gem in the world.
Natural Alexandrite is still making its mark in history: Alexandrite is the Birthstone of June, placed in the crowns of Royalty around the world, is attributed to health and strength, and is the colors of Imperial Russia. Alexandrite is now mined in India, Brazil, Africa and the far east and the alexandrite of each mine has its own unique characteristics.