Alexandrite is the third birthstone for June! Pearls and moonstones were the two birthstones for this month, but alexandrite was added to the list in 2016.
1. Alexandrite was first mined less than 200 years ago whereas pearls and moonstones have been used as adornment for thousands of years.
2. Alexandrite is a very rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. It's rare because it changes color! Fine alexandrite is green to bluish green in daylight and the red tone of the gemstone becomes visible when the stone is viewed in a light source that is rich in red rays.
3. This gemstone is exceptionally rare, and therefore, exceptionally valuable.
4. Originally discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830s, it was named after Czar Alexander II.
5. The gem was discovered in an emerald mine in the Ural Mountains. A miner noticed that one of the stones they believed to be an emerald looked red in the light of their campfire. In the morning they saw the stone looked green again. Thus, the discovery of alexandrite. The color is created by the presence of chromium in the gemstone. The most valuable alexandrite gemstones turn from a brilliant green to a fiery red.
6. Green and red are the colors of Old Imperial Russia’s military colors. This led to the stone becoming the national stone of tsarist Russia and it became one of the most prized gemstones among the Russian aristocracy.
7. It’s 8.5 on the Mohs scale.
8. Almost all of Russia's alexandrite was mined during the 19th Century. However, just when it looked like there was no more alexandrite, even larger deposits were found in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Later, Brazil became another source of the stone.
9. However, the Brazilian and Sri Lankan stones often don’t display as rich a green color as the Russian stones.
10. George Kunz, Tiffany's master gem buyer, fell absolutely in love with alexandrite and traveled to Russia in search of it. No one knows exactly how much of the gemstone he bought, but Tiffany’s reserves of the stone were so large that it cornered the market on the stone for decades.
You can read about June's other birthstones here: pearls and moonstones