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Brazilian Alexandrite

Gem connoisseurs still can’t forget the moment in 1987 when they first saw specimens from the spectacular find of alexandrite in Minais Gerais, Brazil’s province of gem plenty. “A dealer showed me a 400-piece parcel weighing 126 carats of which 35 stones were above a carat,” one Brazilan gem specialist recalls. “That was way more alexandrite than I had seen in the previous five years.”

But the parcel wasn’t just good news from a quantity standpoint. Its quality was equally impressive.

“The best of the stones were as good as, if not better than, any pieces I had ever seen,” he continues. “I understood at a glance why Brazil’s new alexandrite deposit was the find of the decade.”

Other dealers swaddle their first impressions of this color-change chrysoberyl in similar enthusiasm. It’s hard not to, once you see evidence that the supply of the world’s most glorified connoisseur gem has now doubled.

Alexandrite is a fairly modern gem, unknown before 1830, when it was found in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Since its two color states, green and red, were the same as the host country’s military colors, and since its year of discovery was that in which Czar Alexander II came of ruling age, the color-change chrysoberyl was named “alexandrite” as a tribute. That was a wise move for, in time, it became a very prized gem among Russia’s aristocracy.

But practically all of Russia’s alexandrite was mined during the nineteenth century. Just when the gem seemed headed for extinction, far larger deposits were found in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the island nation to the south of India. Later on, Brazil became still another contributor to world supply, although its stones didn’t command respect until the recent discovery.

Early in the twentieth century, alexandrite aesthetics were far more a matter of debate than they are today, with dealers tending to be evenly divided in partnership between Russian and Ceylonese stones. For example, gemology pioneer Max Bauer was unabashedly partial to the Ceylonese variety. In the last 50 years, however, the debate has become almost completely one-sided in favor of Russian material.

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Brazilian Alexandrite
Brazilian Alexandrite
Brazilian Alexandrite