Is Synthetic Alexandrite Real Alexandrite?


Natural alexandrite is very rare and quite stunning. These factors help create a market for synthetic alexandrite as an option for jewelry. Synthetic alexandrite is real alexandrite created in a lab. “55.88 ct Synthetic Alexandrite.” © All That Glitters. Used with permission.
Natural alexandrite is very rare and quite stunning. These factors help create a market for synthetic alexandrite as an option for jewelry. Synthetic alexandrite is real alexandrite created in a lab. “55.88-ct Synthetic Alexandrite.” © All That Glitters. Used with permission.

Question

What are the chances that the stone in my 40+ year-old ring is a real alexandrite? It changes color from blue to a deep purple. The gem is emerald cut and it’s in a very pretty setting. The ring was a gift for my June birthday.

Answer

It’s unlikely your alexandrite is a natural stone. However, it may be a real alexandrite.  The blue to purple color change isn’t unheard of in nature but it’s rare and mostly seen in some of the newer finds from Africa.  This blue to purple color change more likely indicates a hydrothermal lab-grown alexandrite. It’s a real alexandrite, but it’s synthetic.  The stone has the same physical and chemical properties as a natural alexandrite.  It was just made in a lab, not inside the Earth.

“Chrysoberyl Var. Alexandrite” by Géry Parent is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0
“Chrysoberyl Var. Alexandrite” by Géry Parent is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0

Hydrothermally grown alexandrites are some of the more valuable synthetic gems.  Still, they have nowhere near the value per carat of a natural alexandrite.  Natural alexandrite is very rare.

If you’re disappointed, take heart that at least you have a real alexandrite. Some jewelry pieces are sold with gems said to be alexandrites that are actually color change chrysoberyls. (Alexandrite is a variety of chrysoberyl). Also, cheap so-called “alexandrite jewelry” usually features synthetic color change corundum instead.

Donald Clark, CSM IMG

“Chrysoberyl Var. Alexandrite under UVL” by Géry Parent is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0
“Chrysoberyl Var. Alexandrite under UVL” by Géry Parent is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0