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Alex is Here

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

I went to another gem show last weekend.  I love going to those because sometimes even the sellers you already know have special show deals they won’t give you at any other time.  And you can get odd gems that usually take more time to find. 

I stocked up on some lovely tourmaline pairs, and I got a lot of matched pairs of spinels as well, so look out for new listings in the earring sections.  I also got a very cool star sapphire from Ceylon, some greenish aqua, more spessartite and a matched pair of trilliant cut color change garnet!

But my favorite purchase was the alexandrite.  I don’t usually disclose my sources, but I think I should in this case, because there’s a bit of fake alex on the market and you have to be cautious.  (More about how to tell a fake below).  This company is the only one from which I purchase alexandrite, which is their specialty.  They are called “Precious Pebbles” and are a wholesaler located in New York and in India.  It is a family run business, and gems, mining and cutting have been their trade for over 200 years.  A while back – I don’t know when – they negotiated a deal with the Indian government for one of the alexandrite mines in India, which they now co-own. 

There are three main origins for alexandrite today: Brazil, Sri Lanka and India (though it now also comes from Tanzania).  Brazilian gems are usually a bit more forest green, but the slightly lighter material I purchased – which is Indian – can come from Brazil also.  The Indian and Sri Lankan material (formerly “Ceylon”) is usually lighter and a tough grassier in hue.  Both can have excellent color change.

The mysterious Russian alexandrite, sadly, has been mined out a long time ago.  Also, even expert labs are sometimes hesitant to provide certainty about origin, as the Russian and Brazilian material can be virtually identical.  The best bet, if Russian is what you want, is to find some privately owned stock.  Precious Pebbles does not have any Russian material, and that tells you something, since they carry several hundred thousand carats of alex in their stock.

And that is also is why I got such a great deal.  If you have this much alex, you can spare some at a lower price, especially the materials that are hard to sell when you have so much of the superb quality stuff that sells for thousands.  Compared to that, the “lesser” alex, with slightly more inclusions and slightly less color change, cannot show itself from its best side, and it gets selected out.  So I got my parcel at something like 70% of the “cover price”.  This means that even at a markup, I can beat standard wholesale prices by about half, and you know that I’m happy to share.

How can you be sure that an alex is not fake, then?  You need to practice a little, but here’s how you go about it:  the worry with alex is not dye or oil (which you can test for by putting a gem into alcohol).  The worry is that you have synthetic material.  You do need a loupe for this, and a couple of genuine gems for comparison (a sapphire is a good choice here).  Now flip the gem over and look at the back facets.  Are they clean like a mirror or do they look like they’d been cut with a serrated knife?  The latter indicates a synthetic gem  Compare to your genuine gem for likeness.  Next, loupe your comparison gem.  Note that you will find inclusions even in a clean gem.  If you don’t, flip the gem over and look at it from the back, you’ll see more.  For instance, you can note slight color variations (zoning), or streaky white clouds (silk) or black dots and lines (piques) depending on your gem.  Now look at the alex.  Do you see inclusions also?  Then you are safe.  Mostly, the alexandrite inclusions are reflective in nature, they look a little like slices of mirror inserted vertically into the gem.  Lastly, check for the color change.  If it is too eager, and flips in lighting that’s not incandescent, that’s not a good sign.  Mild color change and minor inclusions are more likely to indicate authenticity, unless you paid an arm and a leg for your gem.

Ok, then, I think you are ready to judge these.  I took two pics of my stones in daylight, and two (fuzzy ones) in my bathroom, with nothing but incandescent light overhead.  Let’s look at these pictures right to left. (The labels for clarity are based on my own judgment.)




1. A rectangular cushion cut.  1.1 cts, 6x4 x 4.4mm.  Mild color change, deep cut for color.  Clean when louped from the front, but a clear inclusion on one side when louped from the back.  I’m going to run with the label VS here.  Price: $200.  -- SOLD

2. An oval.  .96 cts, 7.3 x 4.8mm.  Medium color change, darker color, not totally eye clean (one inclusion visible from an angle).  Price: $180.

3. A larger rectangular cushion cut (center).  1.18 cts, 7.6 x 4.9mm.  Mild color change, but high brilliance.  Eye clean and loupe clean also.  VVS.  Price: $220.

4. A rectangle.  1.23 cts, 7.8 x 5.2mm.  This is the largest gem.  It is also the shallowest, and has almost no color change.  On the other hand, it is eye clean and when louped has one inclusion visible from the front but only at an angle (VS-VVS).  Price: $200.

5. A pear shape.  1.03 cts, 7 x 5.1mm. This is the best of the lot.  It’s a fairly deep stone, dark forest green, and has the strongest color change of the parcel.  Most of the body is eye and loupe clean, but there are some inclusions in the tip that you can see close up and with a loupe, mainly from the back. SI in my view.  $220.  --  SOLD




If you want just the stone I will list it out on etsy or ship it to you for payment via paypal.  You get 2 weeks to look at it, at that point, you ship it back or I keep your money. J

I'm going to list some of these out on etsy in the next couple of weeks anyway.

For custom orders, as always, there’s no refund.  Note that not all of these can be bezeled, unless I hire someone to make me a precision bezel (which I’m willing to do, but I have to get a quote).  The commercial bezels, in other words, won’t fit these, and I’m not yet expert enough to make my own perfect tapered bezel.  I can just make the regular bezels for cabochons, and even those are not great.   So for the cushion cuts and rectangle, I have to use baguette settings or prong.  I think the pear shape would make a nice pendant in white or yellow gold.  The others would be nice rings, but a rectangular pendant is also very cute. 

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