Natural Alexandrite From The Ground To Your Jewelry
Alexandrite mines of India are very dangerous places to visit because the villagers are tribal, very superstitious, and some are “human eaters” ( known to us as cannibals). The villages around the Alexandrite mines have a Tribal Elder, and all mining and selling of natural Alexandrite rough is under his authority.
All payments for Alexandrite rough were made in cash, in U.S. Dollars until 2008. The Elder determines the amount and size of rough that can be bought. There is no bargaining and the sale is “take it or leave it”. With the U.S. Dollar faring poorly around the globe at this time, payment is in Swiss Francs or other, more stable, currency.
Packets of larger and/or graded rough crystals can also be purchased but those are rare and contain fewer total carats and can cost upwards of $50,000 or more per packet. Occasionally, larger pieces of rough may be sold individually for great premiums.
Travel to these villages are dangerous and the conditions are extremely primitive with no, or very little electricity and running water. As soon as the transaction is made the buyer must leave the area as quickly as possible because the local police will be notified of the purchase and they will expect to be paid a bribe- part of which goes back to the ‘whistle blower’.
Rough bought from anyone other than the Tribal Elder, is illegal and considered smuggling. Penalties are very severe with jail being the least that can happen!
The Tribal Elder pays the mineworkers and generally controls the finances of the tribe. There are only three to four times per year that rough is sold by the Tribal Elder. The best time is September through October.
Rough To Finished Gemstones
Once the rough is brought back to the workshop it is sorted piece-by-piece and graded by eye which is very time consuming and difficult. Remember that the initial packet of rough is approximately 2,000 carats and there are thousands and thousands of small pieces contained in small baggies.
About 250-300 carats of rough are considered fine enough to be cut into faceted gems that are considered fine or top quality grade with several additional gradings made according to color, color-change, and clarity. These faceted gems are graded into 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, and Commercial Grade. Commercial Grade is formed into beads, and some of the lower grades are sold to other cutters.
Next, each individual piece of the fine quality rough (approximately 250-300 carats) will be examined to determine the best shape for the finished gem. This rough cut will yield approximately 100 carats of the shaped gems with the melee (or scrap) being used to make tiny faceted gems (1 to 1.5mm) and other products.
The 100 carats of shaped gems are then given the 1st Cut with larger facets being placed and cut by eye. This process will yield about 50-55 carats of alexandrite. The 2nd Cut is also done by eye with measurements being taken around the gem for evenness and to place the smaller facets for full coloration and greater brilliance. The 2nd Cut will yield 30-35 carats out of the 50-55 carats.
The final step to producing the beautiful faceted alexandrite that you see on our website is Polishing. The resulting alexandrite gemstone yield is 20-25 carats out of the original 2,000 carats of rough for 1st Grade (VVS) gemstones.
Larger stones are cut by the foreman. The highest quality stones are faceted and finished by the owner and his sons.
To condense this amazing transformation from 2,000 carats of Alexandrite rough to 20-25 carats of finished faceted alexandrite:
- Rough: approximately 2,000 carat parcel
- Gemstone quality rough in parcel: 250-300 carats
- Shaping: yields 100 carats
- 1st Cut: yields 50-55 carats
- 2nd Cut yields 30-35 carats
- Polishing: Final yield 20-22 carats 1st Grade alexandrite
Out of the original 2,000 carats, 2nd and 3rd Grade faceted stones will also be produced. Aproximately 30 carats of 2nd Grade (VS); and 60-70 carats of 3rd Grade (SI) gemstones will be cut.
Most of the rough alexandrite is cut in Oval Facet because its shape will yield a larger carat finished stone. For example, a piece of rough that is cut into a 1.50 carat Oval Facet gemstone will only yield a .90 carat Round (Brilliant) Cut gem.