A Field Guide to Beryl

This aquamarine, while not gem-quality, is still collectible as it demonstrates the typical hexagonal crystal form of beryl. RICHARD GROSS

Beryl is a single mineral species that is colorless in its pure form. Impurities give it its color. While beryl is famous as a gemstone, it is a commercially valuable mineral because it is composed of beryllium aluminum silicate. The ancient Greeks used the term beryllos to describe the mineral beryl. It is also a girl’s name, of Greek origin, which means “sea-green jewel.”

About Beryl

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With a Mohs hardness of eight and several color variations, it is a valuable jewelry gemstone. Color is the most important physical quality of beryl. Emerald (green), aquamarine (blue), heliodor (yellow) and morganite (pink) are the most sought-after beryl gems. Red beryl (bixbite) is very rare and commands a premium price when gem quality. Bixbite has only been found in two locations in Utah. The beryl family contains one of only four gemstones considered to be precious; emerald.

Beryl crystallizes in the hexagonal system often forming large six-sided crystals that are favorites with collectors. It has been found as a “mega” crystal at several localities with the record being one found in Madagascar that was 54 feet long, eight feet in diameter and weighed 400 tons.

The rock types where beryl is most commonly found are pegmatite, gneiss and mica schist.

Famous Emerald

Emeralds are one of the oldest-known minerals. They have been found in tombs in Egypt. According to John Farndon, the oldest Egyptian emerald mines, some 3,500 years old, were discovered by the French adventurer Caillaud in 1816. It is said that the Roman emperor Nero watched through an emerald as gladiators fought.


Beryl Uses

Common beryl (non-gem) is mined as the major source of beryllium used in industry. Beryllium alloys are used in aircraft, missiles, satellites and spacecraft.

Where to Find Beryl

Beryl is mined in the United States (the major producer), South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania, Colombia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Namibia, Nigeria and China.

Youthful Beryl

Beryl is said to have metaphysical properties that include promoting youthfulness, happiness, a balanced nervous system and protection from danger while traveling.

This story about beryl appeared in Rock & Gem magazine. Click here to subscribe. Story by Richard Gross & Pam Freeman.


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