The beryl family includes some of the most popular and expensive gemstones. Emerald and aquamarine are well-known and popular choices for jewelry, while red beryl is one of the rarest and most expensive gems. Beryls can range from colorless to black, and crystals can range in size from single carats to extremely large and flawless examples displayed in museums.
Beryl consists of the elements beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. Normally colorless, beryls take on colors from a variety of trace elements such as chromium and iron. Although beryllium is one of the rarest elements in the earth, beryl gemstones are fairly common. Many types of beryl make excellent jewelry stones and can take an exceptional polish. A well-finished beryl will often appear to have a much higher refractive index.
Blue to blue-green aquamarine is a traditional favorite. In the past, the pure blues were preferred to those that were slightly green, so aquamarines were routinely heated to remove the green color. However, there is a growing demand for natural, untreated, blue-green aquamarine.
Heliodor is the golden variety of beryl, ranging from a pastel yellow to a rich gold, or sometimes a slightly greenish, yellow.
Emerald is acknowledged as one of the most desirable gemstones. Emerald’s green color comes from traces of chromium, vanadium, or a combination of both. Any green beryl that does not have the purity or saturation of color is simply a green beryl.
Red beryl, or bixbite, is exceptionally rare. The only place this raspberry to deep rose red stone is found in gem quality is the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. Faceted gems rarely exceed two carats and are usually included.
Morganite is the pink beryl. While it is often a pure pink, top values go to the salmon/peach shades. Morganite is never dark, with a maximum tone of three.
Goshenite is colorless beryl and very common. There is little demand for this variety, so prices are always low. The same can be said for yellow beryls, though there is more demand for stones over 10-15 carats. Green and olive-colored beryls (those not considered emeralds) are not well known to the gem buying public.
Cat’s eye, star, and shiller effects in beryls are strange curiosities. Cat’s eye aquamarines and emeralds are sometimes rather large. Oriented ilmenite inclusions in pale green aquamarine from Gouvernador Valadares, Brazil, create a brown body color and cause a schiller effect or sheen. When such an aquamarine is carved into a cabochon, a star effect is created. Black star beryls have no fluorescence or distinctive absorption spectrum and are often confused with the latter.
Most beryls in B.C. are found in pegmatites, although occurrences are numerous, beryls are not exceedingly common. Beryls of the Logjam Creek, Horseranch Range, Dortatelle Creek in the Cassiar area are small, opaque, poorly formed crystals of bluish green colour. A few well formed pale bluish green beryls have been seen at Fort Graham in the Buttle Range. Beryls have been identified at the Bonanza mica mine near Tete Jaune Cache. Pegmatite dykes on Mt. Begbie also contain beryls. Pegmatite is abundant in large dykes and loose blocks in the Kootenay District. Most of beryls are very pale, near white with occasional blue-green crystals occurring in the Angus, Porcupine, White, Skookumchuk, and Hellroaring Creek areas. Recently pockets of pegmatite containing yellow to yellow-green to aqua coloured beryls have been found in the Slocan Valley.