Alexandrite Comparison - Natural v. Chatham Lab-Grown

Often described by gem aficionados as “emerald by day, ruby by night,” alexandrite is the very rare color-change variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. - GIA

It was 1830 when the first alexandrite deposits were discovered in Russia's Ural Mountains. Found to be of fine quality and vivid in hues of red and green, mirroring that of the national military uniform of imperial Russia, the mineral was a huge hit. In fact, the gem's namesake is young Alexander II, heir apparent to the throne at the time.

Quantities of these beauties were limited, and as such, ran out eventually. Most alexandrite minerals now come from Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Brazil, but the quality standard for this gemstone remains as it was first found long ago, in 1830.

Adapting to varying light sources/conditions, alexandrite exhibits chameleon-like qualities with a lustrous green in daylight or fluorescent light and an earthy brown to purplish red with incandescent light (from a lamp) or by candle flame.

And due to pleochroism, the colors we see in alexandrite can change depending on the different angles at which we admire the gem. Its color palette ranges from green to orange to purple-red. However, unlike other gems that have similar pleochroic attributes, its striking color change is actually from the unusual way the mineral absorbs light.

Supply of Alexandrite is scarce; because of which, it is, as GIA states, "a relatively expensive member of the chrysoberyl family." And it's no wonder why! It really is a gem like no other.

It was not until recently that Alexandrite could be lab-grown and exude the same vivid hues and fine quality it once did when it was first found! See below images of GIA's examples of the natural version in contrast to Chatham Lab's grown alexandrite under controlled conditions (captured here under fluorescent light).

Lab-grown Alexandrite

And just as we so briefly introduced Proud Pioneer of Lab-Grown Gemstones Chatham Laboratories in the Ruby and Blue Sapphire Comparisons, we repeat here for your convenience:

Founded 75 years ago, Chatham is recognized as the leader of laboratory-grown gemstones, with a large selection of rubies, blue, pink, white, and yellow sapphires, emeralds, padparadscha, alexandrite, aqua blue spinel, and diamond. So recognized that they are in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution and the collection of the Gemological Institute of America.

These gemstones have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as mined gems do. Chatham does not “make” gems, but rather controls the environment so that crystals can grow naturally: recreating the conditions in which gems grow in the earth. So the reason why they look real is because they are! They're just grown in-lab.

One great benefit of owning a Chatham lab-grown gem is that it does not have the many "inclusions" that natural gemstones contain. Inclusions are known to create durability issues and may cause breakage and cavities. Chatham's master gemstone cutters actually cut away 80% of the rough crystals to select only the best color and clarity; less inclusions, more durability.

Because they're grown in-lab under a controlled environment, all of Chatham's gemstones produce the most vividly saturated color possible and are neither enhanced nor color treated as a result. 

See our example of the Lab-Grown Alexandrite below.

the breakdown


  • Natural means rare, unique in nature--such as one's love for another.
  • Inclusions are imperfections that some like to embrace as part of the mined gem culture, proof each gem is one of a kind
  • Classic, has an old world charm to it
  • Comes with a story


  • Grown with the same physical, chemical, optical properties as natural
  • Consistence in quality and color, not enhanced or color-treated
  • More durable, same hardness.
  • Little to no inclusions!
  • Cost savings--sometimes dramatic, other times modest
  • Smaller carbon footprint

Can you tell the difference visually from looking at both?