Tuesday, June 2, 2020

History of the Alexandrite: June's Birthstone


Happy June, everyone! The first signs of summer are now undeniable, and I'm so looking forward to it. Since last month's post on the emerald went over so well, and several of you requested that I make it a series on the birthstones, we are going to learn about June's birthstone today. 

Technically, there are three birthstones listed for June, the pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. Since the pearl isn't exactly a stone, and moonstone isn't as popular, I picked the alexandrite for our study. 

The alexandrite is a more recently discovered stone, not near as ancient as the emerald. However, it does have a connection to the emerald. The first crystals were discovered around April of 1834 in emerald mines near the Tokovaya river in Russia. In fact, the stones are named after the Russian Tsar, Alexander II. The legends tell that on the day the future Tsar came of age, the stone was discovered in the mine. Its principle colors of red and green are also the principle colors of Imperial Russia, so it was natural that this stone was adopted by Tsarists as their national stone.

According to AJSGem.com, the legend goes like this:
Alexander II as a boy.
Attributed to George Dawe / Public domain

Miners were working alone in the mountains one day, collecting emeralds. One miner gathered some stones, which looked like emeralds and took them back to the camp at the end of the day. But in the light of the campfire, the stones shone a brilliant shade of red! The miners were perplexed. When morning came and they saw that the stones were green again in the light, they realized that they had found a new and mysterious gem.

The beautiful aspect of the alexandrite is its color-changing ability. During the day, under natural light, the gem appears as a bluish-green. However at night, or under florescent light, it appears red or purplish-red. Below is a video with the scientific explanation of how this stone changes color, in contrast to stones like the emerald.


Alexandrite under florescent light.
Parent Géry / Public domain
Alexandrite became a favorite among Russian aristocracy, and was highly prized. In France, it also became popular. But it was the American Tiffany Company that truly brought this stone its fame. George Kunz, a master gem buyer for the company, fell so much in love with the stone that he traveled to Russia and purchased unknown amounts of it. He bought so much, that the Tiffany Company had almost a monopoly on the gem for decades.

The original source of alexandrite, in the Ural mountains of Russia, closed after only a few decades of production. For many years, alexandrite was almost impossible to find, and was considered nearly extinct. However, they have found new sources in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Tanzania, and other places, but the colors are not always consistent with the original Russian Alexandrite. Therefore, this stone is still considered a rarity.

If you have a birthday in June, please tell us in the comments below so we can wish you a very happy birthday!

*****

Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  
She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain as a very happy newlywed.  

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


8 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Thanks for the post.

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  2. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Neat history. Today is my birthday, actually. I've always hated the pearl for June's stone (an irritant that needs to be coated) and the only one that wasn't a gem. I was glad when I found out about alexandrite. I have since learned a precious lesson on pearls though, and love them too.

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    1. Happy birthday! I find the pearl to be very neat because of it's uniqueness and the way it is formed, but I also understand where you are coming from. :) The nice thing is, you can claim both the pearl and the beautiful alexandrite!

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  4. Very interesting post. I knew the pearl was the stone for June, but had not heard the history behind the alexandrite. My birthday is in June and red is my favorite color - it certainly would be lovely to have such a stone set in a necklace. I don’t wear any rings as my hands swell due to arthritis.

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    1. Happy birthday, Betti!
      I'm sorry to hear about your arthritis. I had juvenile arthritis for 8 years growing up, so I can relate.
      An alexandrite necklace would look beautiful on you. :D

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  5. I'm a June birthday girl and this month will be number 84.I have both an alexandrite ring set in silver and a pearl set in gold, and I love them both. The alexandrite ring I have is man made and deep purple but I had one that I lost that was was a much lighter purple. I always wondered how it got its name because it was so different from other gem stones. Thanks for the history.

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    1. Happy birthday, Martha! How cool that you actually have both of the birthstones. That's wonderful.

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