Alexandrite in Ring Loses Its Color

by Kathy
(Stillwater, MN)

When I purchased my alexandrite ring 7 years ago it changed to a beautiful aqua-green in the sunlight. Now, only the end or corners change color, not the whole stone. Any idea what happened? I only wear it for special occasions. Thank you.

Hi Kathy,

Unfortunately, it sounds like the gemstone in your ring may have received a treatment to enhance or change its color – but the treatment was not stable.

Different types of treatments are often used on gemstones to bring out their colors. For example, aquamarine is commonly heated to enhance blue hues and reduce green hues – and this treatment is stable and permanent. While sapphires with hints of color can be heated to remove all traces of color to create pure white sapphires – and this treatment is stable too.

But some treatments on some gemstones are not always permanent. One such case is using a colored dye on an emerald gemstone to enhance its color and to hide the appearance of severe inclusions within the gemstone – this type of enhancement will readily fade from the gemstone.

Other types of enhancements or treatments on gemstones – like surface diffusion treatments on rubies to deepen red color tones – are stable as long as the gemstones are not exposed to ultrasonic cleaners or harsh chemicals.

Some gemstone treatments are permanent - others will readily fade within a few weeks, while some can take years to begin to lose their stability. It just all depends on the gemstone and the type of treatment it has received.

Natural gemstones that have not received any color treatments may also lose the saturation of their color if they are repeatedly exposed to sunlight. (For example, a dark purple amethyst can fade if it is exposed to many hours of direct sunlight).

But because you mentioned that you only wear the ring on special occasions, I think what has happened here is a color treatment that is losing its stability.

I’ve never heard of a natural or even a synthetic alexandrite losing its color though. I suspect what you may have is a treated alexandrite simulant, a treated synthetic sapphire, a treated synthetic corundum or even a treated natural color change chrysoberyl. (It could even possibly be zandrite, which is a lab created glass that is crafted to exhibit color change, although I’m not sure if zandrite would lose its color over time).

Unfortunately, it is impossible to know exactly what has happened to your gemstone – or what type of gemstone you have, or which treatment it has received (although I suspect it may have received some type of dye or surface treatment). The only conclusive why to find out is to have the gemstone analyzed by a laboratory like the American Gem Society.

Even a certified gemologist might have difficulties determining what type of treatment the gemstone may have received (or not) – in this case, the gemstone would probably need to undergo testing. And the testing/analysis would probably cost much more than the ring is worth. But a certified gemologist could at least tell you what type of stone is in the ring.

For now, the best thing to do is to stick with reserving the ring for special occasions. Keep it away from heat, sunlight, ultrasonic cleaners, steam cleaners etc, and store the ring in a soft pouch or box away from other pieces of jewelry to minimize risks for scratches. If you do need to clean the ring, just wipe it gently with a little bit of non-detergent soap and warm water and then buff it dry with a soft cloth.

And if the ring is made with white gold, it probably would be best not to have it re-rhodium plated, as the plating process could lead to further color loss in the gemstone.

I wish I could offer better – and more conclusive – info on your ring, but sadly there are a wealth of gemstones and simulants falsely and mistakenly sold as real and synthetic alexandrites. Perhaps though, if you contact the person who sold you the ring you could gain more information – or even receive some type of exchange or refund on the ring even though it has been a few years.

Do write back if you have any additional questions – or to provide us with an update, if you find out anything more about why the gemstone changed color, which could help future visitors with this type of issue!

Suzanne Gardner
Everything Wedding Rings

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