What Is Alexandrite?

Illustration of Alexandrite jewelry in a jewelry box

Illustration: The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Most of us have never seen a natural alexandrite gem in person, yet the stone continues to be a source of public interest. Alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family of minerals, prized because of its enchanting ability to change color. Alexandrite is green or blue-green in daylight and under fluorescent lighting and morphs to shades of red when displayed in incandescent light.

This rare and expensive gemstone is hard to find in your everyday jewelry store, despite being named the official birthstone of June. The fascinating history and lore make the alexandrite stone one of the most desired on the market. Find out how to assess alexandrite by first learning all the basics. 


Alexandrite was first discovered in the 1830s in Russia's Ural Mountains and named after the future Czar of Russia, Alexander II. Red and green were Imperial Russia's national colors, increasing demand for the gemstone and eventually depleting the supply found in the Urals.

Alexandrite and pearl are both traditional birthstones for the month of June. The gem is also sometimes regarded as the gift associated with a 45th wedding anniversary.


Alexandrite has since been found in other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, and Brazil. But it's important to note that many of the newly found gems are not as vividly colored as the Russian gemstones and do not change color as dramatically. Gems from areas in Brazil exhibit better color changes than stones from other areas and are in most demand, but their colors differ somewhat from the Russian gems.


Alexandrite is rated at 8.5 on the Mohs scale, between diamond at 10 (the hardest gem) and corundum (sapphire and ruby) at 9. Most desirable alexandrite is transparent but may have inclusions that appear under magnification as small spots or fine threads. Less desirable alexandrite found today may be translucent or opaque.

Because it is durable, alexandrite can be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners, or in soapy water. Follow cleaning instructions from the jewelry store or individual who sold you the jewelry.


Jewelry created from Russian alexandrite is sometimes sold at estate auctions and typically fetches a high price. It isn't unusual for large stones to sell for more than a comparably sized natural emerald or ruby.

There are two critical components to a valuable alexandrite stone: size and color. Evaluating an alexandrite's color is two-fold. First, you must consider how dramatic the color change effect is. The more predominant the color change, the more valuable. The second aspect of color is how close the stone is to true green and red. Many alexandrites, especially synthetics, can be considered more blue and purple. The closer the stone is to true red and green and the more dramatic the change, the more valuable the stone. 

Size is another important factor since alexandrite stones in larger karat sizes are extremely rare, making them more in demand. Clarity and transparency are often overlooked so long as the stone is large and exhibits an impressive color change. 

Synthetic Alexandrite

Like so many other gemstones, synthetic alexandrite can be created in a laboratory. The synthetic versions change color in much the same way as natural alexandrite but often have more (and different) internal irregularities than the natural stones. Air bubbles are sometimes visible in synthetic alexandrite, depending on the method used to create the stones.

Consider obtaining a gem report to reveal a stone's true origins before spending a large amount of money on alexandrite that's advertised as natural.

Uses for Alternative Healing

Alexandrite has been used for crystal healing since its discovery. Overall, the gemstone is believed to bring good fortune to its owner and help enhance self-esteem. It has been used for healing inner ear problems, clearing the lymph system, and for disorders related to the blood and circulatory system in general. The stone is said to dispel negative energy and absorb positive vibes from our surroundings.

Information about crystal healing is not intended as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical care.