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Beryllium is a hard and shiny metallic element. Extremely rare, it's
prized in industry for its high melting point and conductivity.
Combined with other elements, it forms beautiful gemstones that are
hard and brilliant.
Mix beryllium with aluminum and silica and you get a family of
minerals known as beryl. Stir in a few impurities, and clear beryl
becomes green, blue, yellow, pink, or red.
Each color has its own name: clear beryl is called goshenite; green,
emerald; blue, aquamarine; yellow, heliodor; pink, morganite; and
red is known as red beryl or bixbite. Additionally, a light green
that isn't intense enough to be classified as emerald is labeled
The green in emeralds results from trace amounts of chromium.
Varying combinations of iron, magnesium, manganese, and vanadium
produce blues, yellows, pinks, and red.
Emeralds are rare, and the most prized of all gemstones.
Blue-green aquamarine, which received its name from the Latin words
for seawater, was once believed to contain the spirit of the sea. A
piece of aquamarine was the traditional good luck talisman for
ancient sea- farers. Warriors also carried aquamarine, in the belief
that it imparted courage.
Aquamarine is more abundant than emerald, and much lower-priced.
Brazil is the primary source of aquamarine, with lesser amounts
mined in Africa, Europe, India, and the United States.
Large aquamarines weighing several pounds are common. Faceted
aquamarines often weigh 10-30 carats, with some tipping the scales
up to 1,000 carats. At about 142 carats to an ounce, those gems
weigh nearly half a pound!
Because fashion dictates that pure blue is more desirable,
blue-green aquamarines are routinely heat- treated to turn them
permanently blue. Although rare, some aquamarines are naturally
blue. When buying any aquamarine, ask to see it in natural light, as
artificial light can make the color seem richer than it truly is.
Heliodor, morganite, and red beryl are less well- known. The first
two are abundant and inexpensive. Red beryl, because it is the
rarest of all beryl, is very expensive. Unlike aquamarine, its
blue-green cousin, red beryl is small, seldom exceeding more than
one carat in size.
Chrysoberyl, a group of lesser-known cousins, results when beryllium
combines with aluminum and oxygen, rather than silica.
Relatively unknown, chrysoberyl is usually transparent yellow green,
green, or yellow. Occasionally, it's brown. Collectors are the
primary admirers of chrysoberyl as there's little demand for it in
Another cousin is cat's eye chrysoberyl.
The rarest of all the beryllium cousins, and therefore the most
valuable, is alexandrite, the magical mineral that changes colors.
Wear alexandrite in the daylight and it flashes gorgeous green. Wear
it in incandescent light and it blushes radiant red.
The Russians discovered alexandrite in 1830, on the 21st birthday of
Czar Alexander II, for whom they named it. They quickly mined out
the small lode. Alexandrite today comes from Brazilian mines. Good
alexandrite is very rare and extremely expensive.
Most of the natural alexandrite now available has "muddy" colors
that do not make a clear change from red to green and back.
Synthetic alexandrite changes colors flawlessly. Those in search of
good quality alexandrite hunt for it in estate sales, rather buy it
in today's markets.
With all its cousins, it's easy to find the gem best suited for your
purposes among the brilliant beryls.
****Sandra I. Smith, Writer ****