April 29, 1830: According to legend, alexandrite was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia on the 12th birthday of Crown Prince Alexander, for whom it was named (later Czar Alexander II).
A color-change variety of chrysoberyl, it is prized for its change of shades of green in daylight, to shades of red in incandescent light.
The stone’s rarity combined with its auspicious discovery date made alexandrite a favorite among the Russian aristocracy.
The Ural Mountains are no longer a major source; the most important sources today are Brazil, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar and India.
The stones from India are many times oriented in the wrong direction. To preserve weight from the original crystal, they cut them perpendicularly, so the intensity of color and the change of color is more beautiful looking through the girdle (side of the stone) rather than through table (top of the stone). These stones will cost far less than their counterparts.
Very fine quality stones can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 or more per carat, depending upon size and the degree of color change.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society. He is the author of three appraisal books and has appeared on ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.