What is Beryl?
Beryl is a relatively rare silicate mineral with a chemical composition of Be3Al2Si6O18. It is found in igneous and metamorphic rocks in many parts of the world. Before 1969, beryl served as the only important ore of beryllium metal. Since then, most of the world's supply of beryllium is refined from bertrandite, a beryllium silicate hydroxide, mined at Spor Mountain, Utah. Small amounts of beryl, mostly produced as a by-product of gemstone mining, are still used to produce beryllium.
The major economic interest in beryl today is its use as a gemstone. It is one of the most important gem minerals, and the gems are named by their colour as emerald (green), aquamarine (greenish blue to blue), morganite (pink to orange), red beryl (red), heliodor (yellow to greenish yellow), maxixe (deep blue), goshenite (colourless), and green beryl (light green). Emerald and aquamarine are the most popular. Compared to other gemstones, emeralds are second only to diamonds in terms of the dollar value imported into the United States. Occasionally, chatoyant specimens of beryl are found that can be cut into cabochons to produce interesting cat's-eye gemstones.
Geologic Occurrence of Beryl
Beryl is a mineral that contains a significant amount of beryllium. Beryllium is a very rare metal, and that limits the occurrence of beryl to a few geological situations where beryllium is present in sufficient amounts to form minerals. It mainly occurs in granite, rhyolite, and granite pegmatites; in metamorphic rocks associated with pegmatites; and, in veins and cavities where hydrothermal activity is associated with rocks of granitic composition. These different types of deposits are often found together and serve as an exploration model for finding beryl.
Beryl is also found where carbonaceous shale, limestone, and marble have been acted upon by regional metamorphism. The famous emerald deposits of Colombia and Zambia have been formed under these conditions. The carbonaceous material is thought to provide the chromium or vanadium needed to colour the emerald.
Physical Properties of Beryl
The most important physical properties of beryl are those that determine its usefulness as a gem. Colour and clarity are very important. Beryl occurs in a diversity of colours, with some of those colours being highly desirable. It also occurs in transparent crystals that have clarity and size that are sufficient for faceting. Many beryls have a colour that can be improved by heating.
Beryl's durability is generally good. It has a Mohs hardness of 7.5 to 8, which helps it resist scratches when worn in jewellery. Beryl breaks by cleavage and it is also brittle. Many specimens, especially of emerald, are fractured or highly included. These weaknesses can make it vulnerable to damage by impact, pressure or temperature change.
Beryl can be difficult to identify. When it occurs as a crystal, its prismatic, hexagonal form with flat terminations and lack of striations is a good aid in identification. Beryl's high hardness and relatively low specific gravity can be helpful for identifying massive specimens.
|Colour||White, Colorless, Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Brown, Pink, Purple|
|Hardness||7.5 - 8.0|
|Refractive Index||1.57 - 1.58|
|SG||2.6 - 2.8|
|Transparency||Transparent to opaque|
|Cleavage||3,1 - basal|
Healing Properties of beryl
Beryl crystal healing properties include aiding the organs of elimination, strengthen the pulmonary and circulatory systems, increases resistance to toxins and pollutants, and treats the liver, heart, stomach, and spine. It also heals concussions and is a sedative stone.
There are specific colour of Beryl that have additional healing properties in addition to the ones listed above, for instance, Golden Beryl is a seer's stone and is used for ritual magic and aids in scrying and magical workings. It promotes purity of being and initiative, independence, and stimulates the will to succeed and manifest potential into reality. It opens both the crown and solar plexus chakras.
Morganite (Pink Beryl) attracts and maintains love. It encourages loving thoughts and actions, activates and cleanses the heart chakra, calms stress, and is beneficial to the nervous system. Another one of this crystals healing properties is its help in recognising the escape routes, closed mindedness, and egotism that block spiritual advancement. It assists in becoming aware of the disregarded needs of the soul, aids in recognising emotional needs and unexpressed feelings. Morganite is a powerful stone for dissolving conscious or unconscious resistance to healing and transformation allowing the heart to open to receive unconditional love and healing. It treats TB, asthma, emphysema, heart problems, vertigo, impotence, and lung blockages.
Bixbite (Red Beryl) is an excellent stone for opening and energising the base chakras.
Uses of Beryl (ore of beryllium)
Beryl was once the only important ore of beryllium metal, but today the mining of bertrandite at Spor Mountain, Utah supplies about 80% of the world's beryllium. The extraction of beryllium from beryl is very costly, and as long as bertrandite is available in large amounts, beryl will be a minor ore of that metal.
The primary economic use of beryl today is as a gemstone. It occurs in a wide variety of colors that appeal to many consumers. A brief description of popular gem beryl varieties is presented in the below.Emerald, Aquamarine, Goshenite and Morganite
Yellow beryl, also called "golden beryl" or "heliodor," is a yellow to greenish yellow beryl. A few vendors call it "yellow emerald" but many believe that name is inappropriate. Yellow beryl is a durable stone that often has a beautiful yellow colour and a relatively low price. The public is not familiar with the gem, and as a result the demand is very low and so is the price. People who enjoy yellow gems and want an item of jewellery with a yellow beryl will have a hard time finding it at most jewellery stores. It is most often seen in the inventory of a jeweller who does custom designs.
Small amounts of iron are thought to produce the colour of yellow beryl, which can often be changed with heating or irradiation. Despite the fact that many specimens of yellow beryl depreciate with treatment to less valuable colours, some specimens can be heated to a greenish blue similar to aquamarine, while others can be irradiated to produce a more desirable yellow colour. Those with plans to treat yellow beryl must experiment because treatment success is variable.
"Green beryl" is the name given to light green specimens of beryl that do not have a tone and saturation dark enough to merit the name "emerald." Some of this light green beryl is coloured by iron and lacks the distinct green colour associated with emerald. Some is coloured by chromium or vanadium and does not have the proper hue, tone, and saturation to be called "emerald."
The price difference between green beryl and emerald is significant, so some buyers or sellers hope to have specimens judged in their flavor. This can lead to problems because a precise colour boundary between emerald and green beryl has not been defined with industry-wide agreement. Green beryl can be an attractive gem, but it is rarely seen in jewellery.
Red beryl is one of the world's rarest gem materials. Gem-quality material that is large enough to facet has been found in very modest amounts in the Wah Wah Mountains and Thomas Range of Utah. Occurrences of red beryl have been found in the Black Range of New Mexico, but crystals there are just a few millimeters in length and are generally too small to facet.
Red beryl is usually a very strong and attractive red color. It has a high enough saturation that even small gems have a very strong colour. This is fortunate because most gems cut from red beryl are very small and only suitable for cutting into melee. Gems over one carat in size are very rare and sell for thousands of dollars per carat. The material is often included and fractured, and these characteristics are accepted just as they are accepted in emerald.
In Utah, the host rocks of red beryl are rhyolitic lava flows. Here, crystals of red beryl formed in small vugs and shrinkage cracks long after the rhyolite crystallized. It is thought that ascending beryllium-rich gases encountered descending mineral-rich groundwater to create the geochemical environment needed to form red beryl. Trace amounts of manganese are thought to cause the colour.
Beryl is a relatively rare mineral because beryllium rarely occurs in large enough quantities to produce minerals. Red beryl is extremely rare because the conditions needed to supply the colour-producing manganese at the proper time to a beryl-forming environment is improbable. So, the formation of red beryl requires the coincidence of two nearly impossible events.
Red beryl was initially named "bixbite" after Maynard Bixby, who first discovered the material. That name has been mostly abandoned because it was so often confused with bixbyite, a manganese iron oxide mineral also named after Mr. Bixby. Some people call it "red emerald," but that name is rejected by many in the trade because it causes confusion with another variety of beryl named "emerald."
Another rare beryl is a very dark blue material known as "maxixe" (pronounced mashish). The dark blue colour is thought to be developed in the ground by exposure to natural radiation. Maxixe is an unfortunate material because the wonderful blue colour quickly fades in daylight to a pale brownish yellow colour. The colour can be restored with additional irradiation, but that colour is also quickly lost with exposure to light. Maxixe was first found in 1917 in a mine in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil. It has since been found in small amounts at a few other locations.
Beryl occasionally contains a fine silk that allows it to be cut into a chatoyant gem. Aquamarine, golden beryl, and emerald are the most likely beryls to be found with chatoyance. When properly oriented and cut en cabochon, these gems usually produce a weak cat's eye, but occasionally a strong cat's eye is produced.
The most desirable chatoyant beryls are those with a highly desirable color and a bright, thin eye that perfectly bisects the gem.
Newly identified raspberry-red gemstone very similar to Beryl, first recognized by the IMA in 2003. Although Pezzottaite was originally regarded as a variety of Beryl, it is now scientifically recognized as an individual mineral species.