With dispersion higher than diamond and sapphire-blue body color, benitoite is one of the most attractive of all rare gems. Gem-quality crystals have been found only in San Benito County, California.
Declared the state gem of California in 1985, benitoite was discovered in 1907. At first, opinions about the material’s identity ranged from volcanic glass to spinel and, due particularly to its color, sapphire. However, the stone’s greater dispersion and birefringence values distinguished it from sapphire. Further examination revealed it as a new gemstone.
Benitoite colors can range from various shades of blue to white and, more rarely, pinkish or colorless. Rough can show color zoning.
With a hardness of 6.5, benitoites are tough enough for most jewelry applications. However, household dust, a common daily hazard, can still scratch them. Thus, protective settings are recommended, especially for ring use. Otherwise, this collector’s gem is very wearable.
Benitoite’s sometimes intense blue color usually masks its high dispersion, which can potentially cause stones to twinkle with red and green flashes. Then again, the stone’s scarcity also masks it from the general public, who remain largely unaware of this gem. Nevertheless, when the time comes to cut this rare stone, consumers face a choice between dispersion and body color.