Beryl is a mineral that's composed of beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate. Naturally occurring beryl tends to form hexagonal crystals that can reach several meters in size if given the right conditions. Completely pure beryl will be transparent and colorless, while mineral impurities frequently tint the crystals color in most specimens. Well known varieties of beryl include aquamarine and emerald, although beryl can also be green, blue, yellow, white and red, depending on the incorporated impurities during formation.
Beryl (Be3Al2Si6O18) crystals will only form in environments where there is a sufficient amount of the element beryllium(Be). These environments include but are not limited to vugs and veins within granitic rock, rhyolitic formations, in metamorphic rocks that contain pegmatites (igneous rock with large crystal formations) and in some cases can form in carbonaceous sedimentary rock formations that have undergone regional metamorphism. Though, the necessity for an environment that's rich in beryllium results in very few beryl crystal deposits around the world.
Where Is Beryl Found?
Beryl can be found in many localities throughout the world, though there are few well known locations where gem quality beryl is produced. Some of the most notable beryl crystal deposits are in Africa, Pakistan, Columbia, Russia, Brazil and the United States (Utah, California, Colorado, Wyoming...).
The Wah Wah Mountains in Utah are known for producing red beryl crystals. This red variety of beryl is extremely rare and is only known to come from a hand full of localities. The crystals are often too small for faceting, though when large enough can produce small finished gems that have been known to retail for thousands of dollars.
The Shigar District of Pakistan produces some of the most beautiful aquamarine crystals around. They're often in excellent condition, display a vibrant blue color and can be found associated with muscovite crystals.
The Erongo Region of Namibia is well renowned for its spectacular mineral formations and associations. This region is known to produce topaz, fluorite, schorl (black tourmaline), smoky quartz, feldspar, goethite, goshenite, aquamarine and many more crystal types. The volcanic history of the region left it with a wide variety of chemicals that primed the land for unique crystal formations. When in pristine condition, many of these specimens are jaw dropping and can be quite expensive.
Varieties Of Beryl.
The six most common varieties of beryl are:
Beryl var. Emerald - A green variety of beryl that is considered to be of highest value as far as beryl is concerned. In most cases, the green color can primarily be attributed to chromium impurities, while occasionally resulting from vanadium impurities. If the green color is faint enough, the crystal is typically only labeled as "green beryl".
Beryl var. Goshenite In most cases this is a colorless variety of beryl, however the lack of color isn't due to the crystal being "pure". The lack of color is a result of impurities acting as color inhibitors. A crystal that has been labeled as goshenite will likely have either cobalt, calcium, scandium, vanadium, tin or iron impurities. The color of goshenite can unnaturally be manipulated by irradiation, of which the color it presents is dependent on the impurity.
Beryl var. Aquamarine - A light blue to blue-green variety of beryl. Oddly enough, it owes its color to iron(II) and iron(III) impurities. The intensity of color depends on the concentration of these cations and their position within the crystal lattice. A combination of both impurities in just the right way can result in a deep blue crystal that's known as maxixe.
Beryl var. Morganite A pink variety of beryl that is also known as "pink beryl". It earns its color from manganese(II) cations within the crystal lattice. Much of the time these crystals contain yellow or orange coloration, sometimes presenting the variety of colors in banded fashion. It's not uncommon to come across morganite crystals that have been unnaturally treated by heat or irradiation to enhance or alter the color of the crystal.
Beryl var. Bixbite - Also known as red beryl, this variety of beryl is typically vibrant red and owes its color to manganese impurities. Only a hand full of locations are known to produce gem quality bixbite crystals and they're considerably more rare than diamonds.
Beryl var. Heliodor Also known as golden beryl, this variety of beryl can be yellow, light green, orange and even brown. However, the name golden beryl is typically only associated with heliodor crystals that display a golden-yellow color. Heliodor is typically the name for beryl crystals that display shades of yellow-green or brown. This golden color is attributed to iron(III) cations within the crystal lattice.
What Is Beryl Used For?
Prior to the 1970's, beryl crystals were used as the primary ore of beryllium metal. Due to the wide variety of potential beryllium applications, whether it be for beryllium alloys, fluorescent lamps, computers, military application, as a deoxidizer, etc..., one can see why it's such an important mineral. Since then, bertrandite, an alternative ore of beryllium has taken the place of beryl crystals due to the costly extraction of beryllium from crystals.
Currently, beryl's primary application is in jewelry and as display pieces. Due to its wide variety of colors, its highly sought after and dependent on the natural color within the crystal, it can be quite expensive. The varieties of beryl crystals have also become popular with the metaphysical and healing crystal community.
Washington state has now joined over a dozen other states to put in place “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders. While we agree this is the correct course of action, it will have a substantial impact on our business. It effectively shuts down much of our company for several weeks.
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