Alexandrite has a delightful story behind it. Discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830s, alexandrite was named after the future Czar Alexander II. But what really sets this gemstone apart is its remarkable colour changing ability. Alexandrite appears red, purple, or raspberry in daylight, but switches to green, blue, or grey under artificial light. This chameleon-like quality makes alexandrite one of the rarest and most coveted gemstones on Earth. But exactly how much is an alexandrite stone worth?
The worth of an alexandrite stone hinges on myriad factors. But before we dig into those, let’s ogle at what bestows alexandrite with such value.
What Makes Alexandrite So Darn Valuable?
Its Rarity Is Legendary
Natural alexandrite is exceptionally scarce, found in very few locations worldwide. The original Russian source dried up long ago. For a while, Sri Lanka was the only place producing alexandrite, with limited supplies also found in Brazil and Zimbabwe. This rarity alone spikes alexandrite prices.
Its Color Change Is Magical
Alexandrite’s dramatic colour change is part of its mystique. The rarest stones switch colours completely, not just along different axes. Top quality alexandrite stone should show vivid green and blue hues under light sources like fluorescent or LED, and rich purplish-red tones under daylight. Lower grade stones may only switch along different colour directions. But the very best display a sharp, absolute shift between two wildly different colours.
Natural Alexandrite Is Nearly Impossible to Find
While synthetic versions abound, high quality natural alexandrite is almost unattainable. In fact, natural alexandrite is rarer than pretty much any other gemstone, even rivalling the precious red diamond in scarceness. Most alexandrite on the market is lab created or treated. Natural, untreated stones command stratospheric prices.
So in summary, alexandrite dazzles with its flexible hue and unmatched scarcity in nature. But how do all the technical details translate into real monetary value? Let’s break it down.
Factors That Determine Alexandrite’s Worth
Many facets contribute to an alexandrite stone’s final price tag. The main considerations are:
Color Change Intensity and Sharpness
This is the biggie. Stones exhibiting the most intense, obvious colour change command the highest prices. Top-notch alexandrites will appear crimson red in daylight and deepest green under artificial light. Medium-grade stones may only show a muddy or incomplete shift, changing along different colour directions like purple to greenish brown. The very best alexandrite shifts colours completely, with no trace of the first hue visible in the second. This vibrant chameleon effect is what buyers want to see.
Like other gemstones, the clarity grade of an alexandrite refers to the number and visibility of internal inclusions or flaws. Alexandrite forms with many inclusions, so stones are graded on a scale ranging from Loupe Clean to Very Slightly Included (VS), Slightly Included (SI), and Included. Eye clean stones with minor inclusions fetch much higher prices than more included, flawed stones.
Bigger is usually better with alexandrite, as larger stones are exponentially rarer. Premium prices scale up rapidly for alexandrite over one carat. Additionally, colour change can appear more dramatic and striking in larger stones. A one carat alexandrite costs many times more per carat than a 0.25 carat stone.
A well-cut stone optimizes the Alexandrite colour change effect, as facets interact with light to maximize hue switching. Alexandrite is usually cut into ovals, rounds, cushion shapes, or trillions. Smooth, precise faceting and good proportions boost the value of any gem, including colour-change alexandrite.
The highest prices go-to natural, untreated alexandrite. Much commercial alexandrite is synthetic, created in labs to imitate scarce natural material. Synthetic usually costs under $1000 per carat. Natural alexandrite can also be treated to enhance colour, but treatment lowers value. Fine jewellery demands untreated natural alexandrite.
The geographic source of alexandrite also affects value. Historically, the finest alexandrite originated from Russia’s Ural Mountains, while Sri Lanka produces exemplary material today. Emerald-green Russian alexandrite remains the most prized, with fine red Ceylon stones close behind. Alexandrite from less fabled localities has lower worth.
Now that we’ve reviewed why alexandrite is so special and the key factors that influence its value, let’s look at some real-world examples of alexandrite prices.
Alexandrite Value Examples
To give you an idea of real prices, here are price-per-carat breakdowns for different quality grades of alexandrite:
- 0.5 carat untreated Ceylon alexandrite sold for $7,000 per carat in 2014.
- A 5 carat natural Russian alexandrite ring sold for $125,000 total in 2013, or $25,000 per carat.
- A high quality 0.68 carat natural alexandrite from Tanzania sold for $14,310 per carat in 2020.
- A 4.07 carat natural Sri Lankan lab treated alexandrite sold for $5,118 per carat in 2018.
- Synthetic flux grown alexandrite sells for around $800 per carat retail, while hydrothermal lab alexandrite goes for under $500 per carat.
- Natural alexandrites under 0.5 carats can sell for $1,000 to $4,000 per carat.
- Fine jewellery quality untreated natural alexandrite over 1 carat can command anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000+ per carat.
- Exceptionally large, fine alexandrites can fetch over $1 million in total!
As you can see, prices span a wide gamut based on the many factors covered earlier. But generally, synthetic or treated material sells for hundreds per carat, while natural untreated alexandrite can be worth up to $12,000 per carat or more!
Putting it All Together
Alexandrite dazzles with its rare colour-changing magic. But this chameleon-like effect comes at a steep price – natural alexandrite is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world. A number of factors like colour change sharpness, clarity, carat size, cut, treatment, and origin determine the final dollar-per-carat assessment. While synthetic or treated alexandrite is obtainable for $500-$1000 per carat, the finest natural Ceylon or Russian stones over one carat can command as much as $12,000 per carat. In summary, alexandrite’s rarity and mystical properties translate to potentially enormous value for outstanding stones.
I don’t know about you, but learning about Alexandrite’s worth makes me want to go prospecting in Sri Lanka! Have you ever seen or owned an alexandrite stone? What other chameleon-like gemstones fascinate you? Let me know in the comments below!