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Diamonds might be forever, but few gemstones are as mysteriously compelling as alexandrite, which is what makes this gemstone the perfect option for a unique engagement ring. The ever-changing hue and rarity of the stone make it extremely special and more than just a passing trend. In short, an alexandrite engagement ring is ideal for anyone who wants something truly one-of-a-kind.
What Is Alexandrite?
Alexandrite is a rare variety of chrysoberyl, well-known for the fact that it’s a pleochroic stone, which means that it appears as a different color depending on its setting. In daylight, alexandrite appears greenish-blue to dark yellow-green, but in incandescent or candlelight, it looks pink to red.
The Pros and Cons of Alexandrite Engagement Rings
One of the most appealing features of an alexandrite engagement ring is that it stands out. For those looking for something eye-catching and unique, alexandrite might be the better choice over a diamond since it feels a bit more exclusive. “If you are an outside-the-box kind of person, then alexandrite is a great choice,” says jewelry designer Helen Ficalora. “Alexandrite is a very valuable, rare, unusual, and expensive stone.”
Meet the Expert
While diamonds are by far the most durable gemstones out there, alexandrite isn’t a bad option in terms of strength. “Alexandrite is a great choice for an engagement ring due to its 8.5 out of 10 Mohs hardness,” notes jewelry designer Nicole Rose Kopelman. If you work with your hands and need a stone that will hold up to a significant amount of wear and tear, an alexandrite engagement ring could be a fabulous option.
Although alexandrite has desirable qualities there is one con to note. It can be difficult to compare alexandrite and diamonds, as Caitlin Mocuin, jewelry designer and founder of Mocuin, points out. “Alexandrite is a very, very different looking gemstone [than a diamond],” she explains. “I would say it’s desirable for someone who is looking for a more unique and unusual engagement ring.”
What to Look for in an Alexandrite Ring
Because of alexandrite's special color-changing aspect, you should consider the metals and any other stones you’re including to make sure they work with all the varying shades. Here are a few other questions to note before purchasing an alexandrite ring.
- What metals pair best alexandrite? “It looks great in yellow gold, which highlights the red/purple warm tones and also contrasts the green/teal cool tones,” says Ficalora. “A white metal will work in the reverse. It depends if you like the warmer tones or the cooler tones, and which you would prefer to compliment."
- How much do alexandrite rings cost? The color also determines the price—the finest alexandrite color is green to blue-green in daylight and red to purple-red in incandescent light, with medium to medium-dark tone and moderately strong saturation. Stones that are too dark or too light with weak saturation are more common and therefore generally less expensive. “Ones that change to red are more valuable than purple or brownish tones,” Mocuin says. “You should only be paying a high price for one that displays both a warm and cool color and displays reds.”
- How can I tell if the ring is high quality? To make sure you’re getting the best stone, buy a certified stone from a reputable laboratory that grades gemstones, advises Peter Amerosi, diamond expert, and vice president of Gerald Peters. “Their report will reveal unbiased information about the gemstone you are purchasing,” he explains.
- What settings look best with alexandrite? In terms of settings, Amerosi says it’s a good idea to get a hard precious metal to hold alexandrite in place since it’s softer than a traditional diamond.
“You should avoid treated gemstones as they were altered at some point to change color, clarity, or durability,” Amerosi adds. “Synthetic stones are chemically identical to natural stones, except synthetic stones were grown by a man in a laboratory. The value of natural stones is much higher than synthetic. If possible, and if your budget allows, I recommend sticking to natural gemstones only.”
How to Care for Your Alexandrite Ring
Caring for an alexandrite ring is pretty simple since it’s a hard stone. Amerosi recommends using a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, with mild soap and room temperature water. “Consider this type of cleaning a ‘car wash,’” he says. “If you want a more in-depth clean, visit the jeweler you purchase the ring from. They will be able to steam, sonic clean, and even polish your ring. Consider this type of cleaning a ‘full detailing.’”
Another way to clean it at home on your own is to put it in a bowl of water with a few drops of ordinary dish detergent, then rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Alexandrite is hard, but not as hard and durable as a diamond. Because of that, Amerosi says you should remove it before heavy cleaning, exercising, swimming, or encountering any chemical.
History of Alexandrite Gemstones
Alexandrite was discovered in 1834 in emerald mines near the Tokovaya River in the Urals. According to legend, it was discovered the same day Russian tsar Alexander II came of age, hence the name alexandrite. Because it shows the colors red and green, the colors of old Imperial Russia, it became the national stone of tsarist Russia. This regal history combined with the rarity of the stone makes it feel extra special and exclusive.
Now, scroll through the 20 of the most stunning alexandrite engagement rings ahead.