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19thC Antique ¾ct Handcrafted Natural Russian Cat’s-Eye Color-Change Alexandrite #43822

Cost: $ 899.99

Antique Genuine Natural Russian Three-Quarter Carat (Plus) Color Change Alexandrite Cats Eye.

CLASSIFICATION:  Cabochon Alexandrite Catseye Oval.

ORIGIN:  The Ural Mountains, Russia.  19th Century.

SIZE:  Diameter:  5mm.  Depth:  3mm.  All measurements approximate.

WEIGHT:  0.84 carats.

NOTES:  Upon request we can set your gemstone as a ring, earring, or pendant.

A gorgeous, richly colored natural green color-change alexandrite “cats eye” precious gemstone from the Ural Mountains of Russia.  This gorgeous and much sought after gemstone was hand shaped and polished into this very beautiful oval cabochon by a 19th century Russian artisan.  The result is an exquisite and incredibly richly colored precious gemstone with lots of depth and gorgeous tone.  The “eye” is sharply defined, and the color is a very rich green which truly looks like a feline eye.  Green alexandrite cats eye was considered for over a century the most desirable species of the chrysoberyl cats eye family in the world, but in the past few decades it has become mostly played out.  This is an exceptionally nice specimen representative of better quality green alexandrite cats eye.  The Southern Ural Mountains of Russia have been producing high quality, rare alexandrite and chrysoberyl cats eye for well over a century.

Cabochon cut stones of this variety show the chatoyancy (small ray of light on the surface) that resembles the feline eye.  The effect is created by uniformly oriented crystal inclusions.  Since ancient times man recognized how closely this attribute resembled the feline eye.  Ancient European and Mediterranean cultures believed it to provide protection against the adverse influences of the "evil eye". Of course, this is not just any cats eye gemstone - it is alexandrite.  Like any other good quality alexandrite precious gemstone, it changes color - markedly.  The color under most lighting conditions is the classic alexandrite green, reminiscent of both peridot and emerald.  However under strong white light, the stone magically transforms itself into a range of colors from a peach-honey color with blush undertones in response to some optical instruments; to a darker purple color in response to other optical instruments.

In hand, under most lighting conditions, the gemstone is most assuredly green.  But the charm of these remarkable gemstones, at least in the higher qualities, is the dramatic color change they are capable of.  Depending upon the source and intensity of the light, the color of various stones can range from gray green, to intense vivid green, to purple, to violet pink, to champagne and honey.  We have used both scanner and two different digital cameras to bring you this series of images - using both direct and indirect lighting - in an attempt to give you some idea of the range of colors and moods this chameleon of precious gemstones is capable of displaying.

This particular specimen is of exceptionally nice quality, vivid green color with very sharply defined and prominent chatoyancy (cats eye).  The highest quality alexandrite cats eye will exhibit a high degree of translucency, and will be completely flawless - but they are rare.  Such high-quality alexandrite cats eye can easily cost thousands of dollars per carat.  This specimen comes very close to such an ideal, however the underside of the gemstone is cut a little roughly.  It’s nothing you’ll be able to see once the gemstone is set, and of course it is not at all uncommon for the underside of these gemstone to be roughly cut.  Most alexandrite cats eye you see in the department stores and on fingers are synthetic.  Good quality alexandrite cats eye will have colorless inclusions that though not discernable individually to the naked eye, nonetheless impart a certain translucency to the gemstone.  It is the uniform orientation of these inclusions which creates the chatoyancy (cats eye).

For those who do not know, alexandrite was only produced for about fifteen years during Czarist (Imperial Russia), in the nineteenth century, before the only known mine of any significance played out.  For over a hundred years the sole source of alexandrite was "recycled" Russian jewelry.  Russian alexandrite is still considered to be the world's best, though very small deposits of inferior alexandrite has been found outside of the Urals in Russia in recent years.  Given the rarity of the gemstone, and the enormous demand, reasonably good specimens are hard to find.  Flawless specimens of any significant size have almost resulted in duels between buyers vying for the privilege of being a selected purchaser.

Upon close examination of the gemstone it becomes obvious that the gemstone has been hand shaped and hand finished.  The slight irregularities which are the hallmark of a handcrafted gemstone are generally regarded as appealing to most gemstone collectors, and is not considered detrimental.  Unlike today’s computer controlled machine finished gemstones, the cut and finish of a gemstone such as this is the legacy of an artisan who lived two centuries ago.  Such antique hand-crafted gemstones possess much greater character and appeal than today's mass-produced machine-produced gemstones.

This gemstone has great luster, colors, and very rich texture; however it is not absolutely flawless.  True, the blemishes it possesses are not visible except under high magnification, and the gemstone can easily be characterized, to use trade jargon, as "eye clean".  Magnified 400% or 500%, as it is here, you might be able to just make out a minor imperfections or two either within the gemstone or in the finish.  Keep in mind however that these characteristics are not only expected of hand-finished gemstones, you must also consider that two centuries ago the mining techniques even possible then, let alone in practice, did not allow the ultra deep mining operations which are so commonplace today.

Two centuries ago mankind was more or less limited to surface deposits or near surface deposits of gemstones.  Higher quality gemstones which today are routinely mined from beneath hundreds of meters, even kilometers beneath the earth's surface, were simply inaccessible then.  So antique gemstones must be appreciated as antiques first, gemstones second.  The relatively superlative quality of contemporary gemstones routinely mined from deep beneath the earth's surface today were simply not accessible two centuries ago, or at least, only rarely so.  However for most, the unique nature and character of antique gemstones such as this more than makes up for included imperfections which by and large, are only visible under magnification.

ALEXANDRITE HISTORY:  Alexandrite is known as a "color change" gemstone.  It is emerald green in daylight or under fluorescent lighting, and a purplish red or blue under incandescent lighting, candlelight, or twilight.  It belongs to the chrysoberyl family of gems, and one of the most extraordinary types is a cats-eye variety of alexandrite, possessing a remarkably prominent "cat's eye".   Most sources credit the discovery of this very unique gemstone to the year 1830 on the birthday of Prince (and ultimately Czar) Alexander II in the Ural Mountains of Russia, near the city of Ekaterinburg.  In celebration of Prince Alexander's coming-of-age, this remarkable gemstone was named after him.  Alexandrite was popular in Imperial Russia both with the royal family and the wealthy elite, both because of its association with the Czar, and because red and green were the colors of the Russian Empire (and its flag).

However this most rare stone did not bring to Alexander the good fortune it is now generally associated with.  Upon ascending to the throne of Russia, Alexander II began long-awaited reforms, including abolishing serfdom, a deed that earned him the name of “The Liberator”. But a terrorist’s bomb ended his life.   In memoriam of the monarch who passed away so prematurely, many people in Russia started to wear alexandrite jewelry. It was considered to be the symbol of loyalty to the throne and compassion towards the victims of the revolutionary terror, but at the same time, it said a lot about the owner’s fortune and social position. Even in those times, it was quite difficult to buy an alexandrite ring. According to Leskov, “there were people who made quite an effort to find an alexandrite, and more often, they failed than succeeded.”

Alexandrite is well known to be an extremely scarce and very costly gem. The quality of color change with different illumination is the primary basis for its quality and price. According to the Gemstone Institute of America (“GIA”), no more than one person out of 100,000 has ever seen a natural alexandrite gemstone, although synthetic alexandrite is common and widely available.  It is likely that if you read the fine print of 99% of the Alexandrite offered at retail jewelers, you will find it to be "laboratory produced" - synthetic.  If there is a huge color change from a very intense green to a very intense red/purple, you can be 99.9% sure that both the color change and the gemstone itself is synthetic.  The shift in color of natural gemstones is generally much more subtle.  Kind of like the difference in taste between fruit juice and Kool-Aide.  One is subtle and natural, the other brassy and synthetic.

However even as an artificially grown stone, alexandrite often commands a retail price of $300.00 to $500.00 per carat.  Of course, alexandrite can be found in Russian jewelry of the imperial era, as it was well loved by the Russian master jewelers.  Master gemologist George Kunz of Tiffany was a fan of alexandrite, and the company produced many rings featuring fine alexandrite in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including some set in platinum from the twenties.  Some Victorian jewelry from England featured sets of small alexandrite.  However the original source in Russia's Ural Mountains has long since closed after producing for only a few decades, and only a few stones can be found on the Russian market today.

In the past few decades some very small deposits of alexandrite have been discovered in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, India, and Mozambique.  However the Brazilian gemstones tend to have washed out colors when cut, and the African and Celanese sources produce very dark, not brightly colored gemstones.  The alexandrite from India tends to be very low quality, with limited color change.  The cut alexandrite originating from Russia is usually "harvested" from vintage jewelry. For over a century this source of "recycled" gemstones from Russia was the only source of Alexandrite, and for many years, alexandrite was almost impossible to find because there was so little available.  Russian Alexandrite remains elusive.  A few specimens are still found from time-to-time in the Ural Mountains of Russia, and are sometimes available as an unset stone, but it is extremely rare in fine qualities.

Stones over 5 carats are almost unknown, though the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., owns a 66 carat specimen, which is believed to be the largest cut alexandrite in existence.  The colors within alexandrite are due to trace amounts of the mineral impurities iron, titanium, and chromium (and rarely vanadium is also present). As is the case with emerald, the chromium element both giveth and taketh away.  While chromium is responsible both for the green color as well as the color change characteristics of alexandrite, chromium also causes alexandrite (like emerald and ruby) to be characterized by fissures and fractures within the gemstone.  Just as emerald is treated under high pressure with oil, in recent years newly-mined alexandrite has oftentimes similarly treated under high pressure with a fluxing agent such as resin, wax, or borax.

The tiny crevasses and fractures are then filled with this material under high pressure, and the treatment is generally very difficult to detect outside of the laboratory.   However whereas emerald (and ruby) are routinely treated, alexandrite is only occasionally (and only recently) afforded such treatment.  The treatment is a recent development, and was not used on gemstones produced in the nineteenth century.  In Russia alexandrite is thought to bring luck, good fortune and love, and also to allow the wearer to foresee danger.  It is also believed to encourage romance, and to strengthen intuition, creativity, and imagination.  Alexandrite is also believed to be beneficial in the treatment of leukemia.  On the metaphysical plane, alexandrite is believed useful in reinforcing one's self esteem and balancing positive and negative energy.


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