For those who were born in in the month of June, alexandrite is the beautiful gem that has been designated as the official June birthstone. Many people (including this June baby!) only know alexandrite from the imitation alexandrite birthstone jewelry they have been given as youngsters. The light pink imitation stones are humdrum looking, and really bear no resemblance to the gorgeous, color-changing hues of genuine alexandrite.
Why Alexandrite for June?
Gemstones have long been associated with different months of the year. In fact, many historians believe that birthstones came about from the Breastplate of Aaron, as described in the book of Exodus in the Bible. The breastplate was ornamented with 12 gemstones, each representing the 12 tribes of Israel, as well as the 12 signs of the zodiac and the 12 months of the year. The breastplate is described as having four rows of three gemstones each: ruby, topaz and beryl; turquoise, sapphire, and emerald; jacinth, agate and amethyst; chrysolite, onyx and jasper. Chrysolite is a close cousin to alexandrite, which was first discovered in the 1830’s in Russia and named after Alexander II. It was adopted by the Jewelers of America as the official birthstone for June because of its close relationship to chrysolite.
Different cultures around the world interpreted the list of gems on the breastplate differently, and assigned their own gemstones to be associated with the different months of the year. One common thread among ancient beliefs about gemstones is that they each possess certain powers, such as the power to heal and protect the wearer of the stone. Those powers were believed to be heightened during the month with which they were associated.
Buying Genuine Alexandrite Birthstone Jewelry – Things You Should Know
Here are some facts about alexandrite you should know before you shop for any birthstone jewelry containing alexandrite:
- Genuine alexandrite is fairly rare, and so it is also expensive. It is most commonly found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Russia and Tanzania.
- With a rating of 8.5 on the Mohs Scale, alexandrite is very hard, but it can be susceptible to a hard impact, and also to high pressure. Always safeguard your alexandrite jewelry by removing it before doing housework, before swimming (so you don’t expose the stone or setting to the chemicals in the water), or before engaging in strenuous activities such as sports.
- Alexandrite is usually only found in small size stones, usually between 1 and 1.5 carats in weight. Anything over that will be extremely expensive since they are so rare.
- Genuine alexandrite is transparent and changes color depending on the type of light in which it is viewed. So the June birthstone color is not really just one color! The stone will appear bluish green in daylight, and under incandescent light it appears reddish-brown.
- Synthetic alexandrite is often found in much of the alexandrite jewelry available today. It is usually labeled as “created”. The synthetic version has identical chemical properties to natural alexandrite, but its color changing properties are slightly different – in daylight they appear greenish-blue, and in artificial light they appear purplish-red.
- There are synthetic and natural versions of corundum that are often confused with alexandrite. Synthetic corundum’s color change is grayish green to grayish-purple, and the natural version of corundum changes from blue to red-violet.
- The synthetic version of spinel exhibits the same color changing properties as genuine alexandrite.
What to Ask for When You Shop for June Birthstone Jewelry
Always ask to see proof of what you are buying when you spend over $100 on jewelry. All jewelry sellers who are on the up-and-up will have certificates of authenticity from gem labs for the jewelry available. If you are told there is not a gem certificate or that you can’t see it, RUN AWAY from that store!
Buying genuine alexandrite on the internet can be done safely, if you are wondering about that. You just have to make sure you see a copy of the gemological certificate first, and make sure the store has a good return policy in case you’re not happy with the jewelry after you receive it. Fortunately, there are many really great stores online that sell alexandrite birthstone jewelry. Amazon and Blue Nile are always two places to check out with confidence.
After the Jewelers of America researched ancient birthstones and published a modern birthstone list in 1912, it became popular to wear birthstones as fashion jewelry merely for their decorative beauty. Most people today do not ascribe mystical powers to gemstones any longer; they have taken on more of a sentimental meaning to those who wear them now.
I know for myself, I have an alexandrite birthstone ring given to me by my mom when I turned 21 that is very special to me since it reminds me of her when I wear it. My daughter has a birthstone ring given to her by Mom also; my daughter never takes it off, since it is a daily reminder of her beloved grandma who passed away shortly after giving her the ring.
Buying birthstone jewelry can be tricky today, since there is a lot of imitation and poor quality jewelry being sold in big box stores. The most important thing to remember when buying any jewelry is that you will get what you pay for. Now that doesn’t mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry to get something of quality. It does mean that spending $19.99 on an alexandrite ring will probably get you a piece of jewelry that contains an imitation alexandrite stone, and the setting will be plated base metal such as brass that might not hold up over time.
The most popular birthstone jewelry today continues to be necklaces and rings, so you will have no trouble finding a large selection of necklace and ring styles. I would recommend sticking with sterling silver or 10-14K gold for your birthstone jewelry settings. That way, you will know that the jewelry, which may come to hold quite a bit of sentimental value for you, will hold up over time. Plated jewelry can also be a viable option, but only if the jewelry will only be worn intermittently.
Care and Storage of June Birthstone Jewelry
I recommend cleaning your alexandrite jewelry gently with either commercial jewelry cleaner or a solution of mild detergent and warm water with a bit of ammonia mixed in. You should not soak any jewelry for a long time in those solutions. Dip them for a minute or so, then you can use a small brush to remove any remaining debris from the stones and setting. Rinse the jewelry well, and dry it completely with a soft cotton cloth. Always store fine jewelry in a soft pouch so other jewelry in your jewelry box won’t scratch it. If the jewelry is made with sterling silver, then this is especially important. It will tarnish less if stored in this manner.
Alexandrite birthstone jewelry will always be special due to alexandrite’s almost magical quality of changing color in different light. The most important thing about it though, is that the jewelry will have a significant sentimental value for you!