Perhaps the best-loved gems of all time, pearls—natural and cultured—occur in a wide variety of colors. Natural pearls form around a microscopic irritant in the bodies of certain mollusks. Cultured pearls are the result of the deliberate insertion of a bead or piece of tissue that the mollusk coats with nacre. The most familiar colors are white and cream (a light yellowish brown). Black, gray, and silver are also fairly common, but the palette of pearl colors extends to every hue. The main color, or bodycolor, is often modified by additional colors called overtones, which are typically pink (sometimes called rosé), green, purple, or blue. Some pearls also show the iridescent phenomenon known as orient.
Pearls are treasures from the Earth’s ponds, lakes, seas, and oceans, and they’ve always embodied the mystery, power, and life-sustaining nature of water.
The qualities that determine a natural or cultured pearl’s value are size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality, and—for jewelry with two or more pearls—matching.
Of the seven pearl value factors, luster might be the most important. Luster is what gives a natural or cultured pearl its unique beauty. Pearls with high luster have sharp bright reflections on the surface. Different pearl varieties have different standards for luster.
If surface characteristics are numerous or severe, they can affect the durability of the pearl and severely depress its value. Surface characteristics have less effect on the pearl’s beauty and value if they are few in number, or if they are minor enough to be hidden by a drill-hole or mounting.
Green in sunlight. Red in lamplight. Color-changing alexandrite is nature’s magic trick. It’s the color-change variety of the mineral, chrysoberyl. Bluish green in daylight, purplish red under incandescent light; hard and durable. This is a result of the complex way the mineral absorbs light. Top quality examples are rare and valuable.
Alexandrite is also a strongly pleochroic gem, which means it can show different colors when viewed from different directions. Typically, its three pleochroic colors are green, orange, and purple-red. However, the striking color change doesn’t arise from the gem’s pleochroism, but rather from the mineral’s unusual light-absorbing properties.
Because of its scarcity, especially in larger sizes, alexandrite is a relatively expensive member of the chrysoberyl family. It shares its status as a June birthstone with cultured pearl and moonstone.
Color change is the most important quality factor for Alexandrite
The most-prized alexandrites show a strong color change from bluish green in daylight and red to purplish red in incandescent light, with moderately strong to strong color saturation.
Clarity is also important-most fine gems are eye clean
Alexandrites tend to contain few inclusions. There’s a dramatic rise in value for clean material with good color change and strong hues. Rarely parallel needle-like inclusions create a cat’s-eye phenomenon, increasing the alexandrite’s value.
Cut is one of the most important factors in appearance
Alexandrites are most often fashioned as mixed cuts, which have brilliant-cut crowns and step-cut pavilions. Alexandrite’s pleochroism makes it a challenge for cutters. When fashioning alexandrite, cutters orient the gem to show the strongest color change through the crown.
Carat weight allows for precise measurements
Most fashioned alexandrites are small, weighing less than one carat. Larger sizes and better qualities rise in price dramatically: Fine-quality stones in sizes above 5.0 carats are very expensive.
Tips & Advice
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.Natural alexandrite is rare and valuable. An inexpensive gem with a strong red-green color change is likely to be a synthetic or simulant.
- Work with a jeweler you trust. Judging the quality of alexandrite requires expertise. Look for gemological credentials. A jeweler who knows and loves alexandrite will welcome the challenge to find one that’s right for you.
- When in doubt, get a lab report. For a significant purchase an independent laboratory report can confirm that the alexandrite you are buying is natural.
- Don’t expect to be able to match alexandrites easily. Creating pairs or suites of alexandrite for earrings, a three stone ring, or a necklace is very challenging. Matching size, shape, color, and color change is particularly difficult. (GIA GEM Encyclopedia, 2015)
Repair, Re-Image, Re-Design
Do you have jewelry that you just won’t wear anymore? Your jewelry should reflect the person you are today! Bring your no-longer-worn jewelry into us so we can repair it or help you re-imagine it into a re-designed piece that is customized for you.
If you’re selling, we’re buying!
Bring us your best, worst, broken, unwanted items. We do jewelry repair on site so we can inform you what it would cost to fix your jewelry.
If you would rather sell it, we are buying gold, silver and diamonds so we’ll be happy to send you on your way with a check!
We are also interested in your “fine” estate jewelry pieces so bring those in too.