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Chemical composition -- Beryllium aluminum silicate. Relative amounts of additional metals give rise to the different color varieties.

The beryl family provides many well known gems.

Color -- Very wide color range.

Optics -- R.I 1.58-1.59, varying with the composition.

Durability -- Hardness 7.5-8.

Crystal structure -- Hexagonal.

Specific Gravity -- 2.66-2.9, varying with the composition.

Sources -- Very widespread. Some of the major sources include Colombia, Brazil, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.


Blue or greenish beryl. Most stones are pale to medium bluish-green, as the name "sea green" implies, but they are almost always heat-treated to enhance the blue coloration. This heat-treating results in permanent color change and duplicates natural heating that occurs in areas of volcanic activity. Aquamarine often occurs in very large sizes, usually with very good clarity. Brazil is the largest source. In recent years, the price of aquamarine has declined somewhat, as an abundance of inexpensive blue topaz look-alikes has flooded the market, but large, fine aquas are still highly prized.


Medium to dark green beryl which derives its color from chromium (some gemologists argue that dark green beryl colored by vanadium should be called emerald, and others insist that chromium must be present). The best known sources include Colombia, Zambia. Almost all emeralds contain numerous small inclusions and fractures that promote fragility. Most stones on the market are impregnated with oils, waxes, or other substances to mask the fractures and sometimes enhance color. Such stones should never be cleaned with ultrasound, as it may remove or damage the impregnating substance. Emeralds of fine color and clarity can be quite expensive.


Colorless beryl. Abundant and low priced.

Green Beryl

Light to medium green (not bluish) beryl. Lacks the intensity of color to be called emerald and subsequently commands lower prices.


Golden yellow beryl. Abundant and low priced in lighter colors and small sizes, but larger (15+ carats) stones in darker colors are more in demand.


Pink beryl. Named for J. Pierpont Morgan, whose gem collection now resides primarily in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Pale stones are abundant and inexpensive. Fine, intense purplish-pink stones from Madagascar and other locations are magnificent and rare. The color fades on prolonged exposure to sunlight, which increases the rarity of fine colored morganite.

Red Beryl (Bixbite)

The rarest of beryls, found only in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. Always quite small, usually under 1 carat, and correspondingly expensive. At least one dealer has attempted to market red beryl as "red emerald," but most are unwilling to accept that appellation.

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