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When they started making synthetic Alexandrite


#1

Could you tell me what year they started making synthetic
Alexandrite I have a client who has a ring from the sixties and asked
me this question


#2
Could you tell me what year they started making synthetic
Alexandrite I have a client who has a ring from the sixties and
asked me this question 

The year was 1973, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your client’s
stone is natural, or even alexandrite. Color-change corundum was
developed around 1909, and has been purchased by unsuspecting people
ever since, as alexandrite for birthstones. It is still widely
offered as an affordable birthstone alternative to natural
alexandrite. Check your supplier’s catalog. If they practice full
disclosure, you’ll see what I mean…read the fine print. Most of us
have Rio Grande’s Gems and Findings catalog. Check their simulated
(not synthetic) alexandrite listings.

Actual synthetic alexandrite has been maufactured by both the
Czochralski and flux methods, and the most obvious difference is in
the inclusions. Flux veils, gas bubbles, metallic platelets and
curved striae will be evident in synthetic alexandrite, depending on
the method of manufacture. Also, synthetic alexandrite often has a
stronger reaction to UV light than natural does. Additionally, both
synthetic types have modifying hues in their color changes that
differ from each other, and from natural material. Natural
alexandrite from different locations also vary in color.

Synthetic color change corundum can have similar inclusions to
synthetic alexandrite owing to similar manufaturing processes.
Refractive index and birefringence are also different. Specific
gravity is another clue, but you’d have to remove the stone to check
that.

To sum up, the year your client’s ring was made is a very weak
indication of whether it contains a natural alexandrite, but it is a
start. Any experienced gemologist can tell, and most of us do IDs
for reasonable prices, i.e., the cost of a decent lunch or dinner. If
it is a natural stone, a written appraisal would be worth the extra
money, too.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL


#3

Any ring made in the 1960’s with what a client thinks is synthetic
or Natural Alexandrite is most likely set with a synthetic color
change Sapphire.

This gemstone was very popular in the mid 20th cent and everyone I
have ever dealt with that owned one thought it was a natural
Alexandrite.

The real clues are first they are generally quite large in size and
the color change often is from Purplish to bluish in color.

Greg DeMark
[email protected]
www.demarkjewelry.com


#4

“Imitation” alexandrite since the late 1800’s, synthetic alexandrite
since 1973.

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#5

If your customer has a piece from the 60’s it is NOT synthetic
alexandrite. Synthetic alex was first manufactured in 1973, both as a
flux-grown product and a Czochralski-pulled product. However,
synthetic corundum exhibiting a color change SIMILAR to SOME
alexandrite was first manufactured in 1909 or 1910 by the Verneuil
process. It is still manufactured that way today, and the proper name
for this material is alexandrite-like synthetic corundum. It is
rather common and has a low value, similar to other synthetic
corundums.

Wayne Emery
The Gemcutter


#6

I believe Synthetic Alexandrite was produced as early as 1920. If the
ring is from the 1960s (unless the stone is small and slightly
included) it is probably a synthetic. Big and clean with excellent
color change is a dead give away for synthetic.

Natural Alexandrite is one of the few gemstones where there was no
new rough coming on the market for over 20 years. The Russia
production was disrupted around the time of the revolution and the
new mines in Brazil weren’t discovered and didn’t start producing
until the late 70s.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#7
synthetic alexandrite often has a stronger reaction to UV light
than natural does. 

Boy, I can vouch for that. I have a nice Russian synthetic alex and
it fluoresces like a neon sign. Downright scary looking under UV.

Chris L (amateur)


#8

For anyone who’s interested…synthetic alexandrite-like corundum
is really great to use if you’re experimenting with setting stones in
PMC before firing. It takes the heat of the kiln very nicely with
little color distortion.

Dee


#9
I believe Synthetic Alexandrite was produced as early as 1920. If
the ring is from the 1960s (unless the stone is small and slightly
included) it is probably a synthetic. Big and clean with excellent
color change is a dead give away for synthetic. 

I maintain that it wasn’t developed until 1973, and that fact is
well documented. While big and clean is a valuable clue for
synthetics produced by the Czochralski method, the flux method
usually has plenty of loupe- and eye-visible inclusions. If the stone
in question is not natural, the most likely material is color-change
corundum.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL


#10

oops! I am not paying proper attention I meant Imitation Alexandrite
from the early 1900s Listen to the G.G.s on this one.

But I am now interested, is the on natural Alexandrite
mining an urban legend? Because I remember a stone dealer who
actually claimed that Natural Alexandrite had gone extinct back in
the early 1970s?

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228


#11

Hi Nanz,

I don’t think natural alexandrite has ever become “extinct” in
modern times, but the availability of nicer material has seen many
ups and downs, just like most other colored stones. After the find
in the Urals, which was fairly quickly exhausted, not much material
appeared on the market for some time. My cutters in Sri Lanka tell
me that there has always been a small but continuing supply of
natural Alex from that island, which persists today; and that
occurrences in India produce at least spasmodically, and have for
many years. In any case, it was not until after WWII that either of
those deposits drew any interest. Concerning the material from he
Urals which put alex on the map, well, there was very, very little
of it ever mined. There’s a picture of a wonderful color change alex
that has been available for years, but, let’s just say the photos
have been doctored a little. However, some of that material is
certainly the finest known.

The more recent large finds in Brazil generated renewed popularity
of the material, but most of the Brazilian material is quite dark
and not especially attractive. Some of the Indian material exhibits
a beautiful Scope-like green color which changes to a nice pink. Not
heavily saturated colors, but very attractive, at least to my mind.
The closest I’ve seen to that particular color is some flux grown
alex from a Japanese laser crystal supplier which shifts from a
turquoise color to a nice wine red which I occasionally cut for the
customer wanting something a little different. The color change is
never complete, but one or the other color will predominate under
differing light sources. I suspect I have not yet found the correct
axial orientation for this particular material, thus the mixing.

Wayne


#12

Hey there, this is precisely the topic I’ve been looking for, and I’ve been reading a fair amount of conflicting information from different sites, and some here.

So, the Alexandrite (or “Alexandrite?”) in question was lost by me ~1968-69. I’m sure it was a natural stone because of its history and characteristics. My mother bought it in the 20s at a jewelry store in Kansas, using her winnings from an essay contest. She thought it was an amethyst, a pretty purple. It was Emerald cut and faceted (but not as faceted as a diamond), and as best I can recall now, about 3/4" at its vertical dimension. It was in an elaborate art deco filigree setting (white metal, but what kind of metal is an was unknown to me) with the four sides of the stone framed by tiny seed pearls strung on little wires. She gave it to me in the mid-sixties. One day outside when the sun hit it, my “purple” stone turned a super-bright emerald green. It was absolute magic. I amazed all my friends with my “magic” ring.

No internet back then, so I went either to a jeweler or the library, perhaps both, to figure out why my purple amethyst turned bright green, and learned that it was an Alexandrite (the concept of a lab-created or otherwise not-natural-alexandrite didn’t occur to me). Anyway, mom was not happy, thinking she had somehow been gypped, thinking she had an amethyst and instead had something weird she had never heard of.

So, In the 1920s my mother won an essay contest and used her winnings to buy an “amethyst” ring - the stone was emerald-cut, about 3/4 inch at the longest dimension, surrounded on all sides with seed pearls, and in a white-gold, platinum, or silver art deco mounting (elaborate “lace” or filigree design). It was similar to this one on eBay, but the filigree on mine was much moe delicate and detailed:
Alexandrite Filigree Ring Sterling Silver Antique Vintage Art Deco Style Size 8
In the 1960s she gave it to me, knowing how much I loved purple. I wore it for several years, and one day, outside, noticed that my beautiful “amethyst” was a fiery emerald green. I figured out that the color change happened with light, did a little research (no internet at that time, so I’m guessing I went to a Jeweler), and determined that it was an alexandrite. Mom was disappointed, feeling that she had been cheated 40 years prior when she thought she was buying an amethyst.

Unfortunately, I fidget with jewelry, especially rings, take them off and put them somewhere never to be seen (by me) again, and have lost quite a few, including this one. I think of it frequently, checking eBay etc for “my” lost ring. I’ve seen plenty of similar ones, but I would know it if I saw it.

So we’re back to the original question - when were lab-created or otherwise synthetic Alexandrites first made? As early as the 1920s? And would an almost instant change from a medium purple (indoors) to a bright emerald green (sunlight) be more typical of a natural stone, a lab-created stone, or one of the other color changing processes or stones I’ve been reading about? This was definitely bought in the early 20’s, and lived in her jewelry box except for the occasonal dinner party, until she gave it to her careless teenager (sorry mom). I have two choices of where I left or lost it, and if I am lucky enough to ever see it again, might be able to compare notes with its finder. What I should be doing is checking estate jewelry shops and pawn shops in that city!

PJ

Thannk you :slight_smile: