While the term Beryl itself is not necessarily well known to those outside of the gemstone trade, many Beryl varieties are among the most famous and popular gemstones. A brief list of well known gemstones that fall into the Beryl family – Emerald, Aquamarine, and Morganite. Beryl has good hardness and comes in many colors, making it an ideal candidate for jewelry of all types and styles. Whilst pure Beryl is colorless, impurities in the mineral allow for a wide range of colors, which is why there are so many different kinds of Beryl gemstones available on the market. While the mineral itself is quite abundant, transparent gem quality Beryl is considerably rarer, and is known as Precious Beryl to separate it from more opaque or translucent forms of the mineral. Beryl also has some industrial uses, and lower quality Beryl can be used as an ore for beryllium, a metal with many industrial uses. Given the diversity and abundance of the mineral, there are obviously many sources for it.
Below we give a brief overview of the major varieties of Beryl Gemstones.
Emerald is undoubtedly the most well known variety of Beryl as well as the most famous kind of green gemstone. The name Emerald is exclusively used for deep or intense green Beryls – lighter green varieties are less valuable and are simply known as Green Beryl. The name Emerald comes from the historical French word ‘esmeralde’, or ‘green stone’. Emerald has a long history of being a prominent and important gemstone, and given its significance in the gemstone world, its rightfully seen as the one of the four ‘precious stones’ alongside diamond, ruby and sapphire. Colombia is a famed source for excellent Emeralds, but there are many emerald deposits around the world, and supply is steadily increasing as more deposits are discovered. The most valuable Emeralds are those that have high clarity and are a darker, intense green. Emeralds, due to the flaws they often have, can be easier to damage than their hardness on the Mohs scale might suggest. As such, they should always be handled with care.
Aquamarine is the blue or green-blue variety of Beryl, and the name comes from the Latin expression for ‘seawater’. Aquamarine is found in greater abundance than some other forms of less common Beryl varieties, and as such is a more mass-market gemstone choice. Aquamarine is the official birthstone for March, and has good hardness and excellent clarity. Aquamarine gemstones tend to have few flaws and are quite durable, making them excellent candidates for use in jewelry. Deeper and more vivid blue Aquamarine gems are highly prized and can be considerably more valuable than their lighter colored counterparts. Aquamarine’s inexpensiveness, hardness, and great color and clarity make it an excellent and accessible choice for jewelry of any kind.
Morganite is the pink variety of Beryl, and was discovered relatively recently, early in the 20th century. Tiffany & Co famously named the newly discovered gemstone after renowned financier JP Morgan (yes, THAT JP Morgan), who was their number one customer at the time. Morganite is the second rarest form of Beryl – moreso in fact than Emerald. Despite this, Morganite is generally less expensive than its green cousin, as there is less demand for the gemstone despite its considerable beauty. Morganite can range from pale pink to peach colored, and can be seen as superior to a variety of other pink gemstones thanks to its hardness and clarity. There are a variety of sources for Morganite, and thanks to its various properties, it is a great choice for use it jewelry, and can sustain considerable wear and tear without damage.
Although Golden Beryl is sometimes also known as Heliodor, there is some debate as to whether they are one and the same. Those who think they are separate varieties state that Heliodor refers to Beryls with a more greenish yellow color, whereas Golden Beryl is the name reserved for Beryls that are more yellow-orange. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this list, we will treat them as one variety. The name Heliodor comes from the Greek for ‘Gift from the Sun’; the origin of the more commonly used Golden Beryl is self evident. Golden Beryl is quite a common and affordable yellow gemstone variety, and like other Beryls, has good hardness and clarity. Golden Beryl can also be found as large crystals, meaning larger gemstones are frequently available.
Goshenite is the colorless variety of Beryl, and is the ‘pure’ form of Beryl, without the various ‘impurities’ that can give gemstones their color. Goshenite was first found in Goshen, Massachusetts, and gets its name from the town. Prior to the widespread availability of synthetic diamonds, Goshenite was a popular diamond substitute. Due to its high transparency, it was also historically used to make the lens for glasses. In the modern day, Goshenite is more common and far less popular than most of its colored counterparts, and only highly transparent forms of Goshenite are ever used as gemstones or for jewelry.
Red Beryl, also occasionally known as Bixbite, is the rarest form of Beryl gemstone. The term ‘Bixbite’ comes from the original discoverer of the gemstone, Maynard Bixby. However Bixbite is falling out of use due to similarity to another mineral ‘Bixbyite’, and Red Beryl is the preferred name. Gem quality Red Beryl is exceedingly rare and very valuable, and most cut gemstones of Red Beryl are no larger than 1 carat. This rather exotic Beryl variety only comes from one source – Utah. Due to its rarity, it is not easily found by ordinary consumers and is infrequently used in jewelry – mostly, it is seen as primarily a collector’s gemstone.
We’ve covered the most of the forms of Beryl, but our list is by no means exhaustive, and if you’re looking for further information about this popular gemstone family, click here.