Beryl is a mineral family with a wide variety of colors, ranging from blue to red. The colors are produced by minor traces of elements in the beryllium silicate crystal lattice. When these traces are absent, the mineral is colorless. The two most important gemstones in this group are emerald and aquamarine. The rare red variety is named bixite, the yellow one is named heliodore, a pink variety is known under the name morganite and the colorless beryl is named goshenite. There is also a rare pale green member with a golden flash marketed under the name riesling beryl. Two other blue beryls are known as maxixe and true blue, although the latter can be considered as aquamarine with a very high iron content.


Image courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Beryls are found around the world in beds of granitic pegmatite. Goshenite is usually formed in gaseous cavities in granite where transition metals are not able to diffuse into the crystals. Most members of the beryl family are very durable with the exception of emerald, which is brittle. Sometimes beryls are found which display asterism or chatoyancy. A nice novelty is the trapiche formation found in some emeralds. A 211 carat cat's-eye beryl is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum, along with a star beryl of over 11 carats.

Beryl's name is derived from the Greek word beryllus and this group was widely known in the ancient world. The word beryllus was used originally for any green stone and was later assigned to the beryl family as we know it today. The ancients considered beryl to have mystical powers; its transparency made it a medium for seeing the future and predicting things to come. An elixir of water in which beryl was dipped, was used by the ancient Greeks in attempts to cure bladder infections and kidney stones. A Medieval cure for asthma also involved this gemstone and the physicians of the Middle Ages believed that beryl was a remedy against liver disease and jaundice. A beryl carved as a frog glyptograph was thought to be able to turn opponents into friends and when carved as a bird, the spirit of a deceased person could be invoked.

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Image courtesy of Lang Antiques.

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Image courtesy of Lang Antiques.

The metaphysical powers attributed to beryl are many and it is the gemstone of the crown chakra. Some credit this gemstone family as a cure against nausea, obesity, ulcers and seasickness as well as a defense against toxins and pollutants.

Several beryls - in particular emerald and aquamarine - are used as anniversary gifts as well as birthstones.

Gemological Information for Beryl

Color: Red, pink, yellow, green, blue and colorless.
Crystal Structure Hexagonal
Refractive Index: 1.577-1.583
Durability: Excellent (Emerald is Brittle)
Hardness: 7.5-8
Family: Beryl
Similar Stones: Beryl can be Confused by Appearance by a Number of Stones, as Quartz, Glass and Zircon
Treatments: Heat Treatment, Oiling, Waxing
Country of Origin: Beryl is found worldwide, most notably in Argentina, Afghanistan, Africa, India, United States and Brazil

Beryl Care

Ultrasonic Cleaning: Not safe
Steam Cleaning: Not safe
Warm Soapy Water: Safe with a soft brush (emerald may be risky)
Chemical Attack: Usually none (emerald may be risky)
Light Sensitivity: May fade
Heat Sensitivity: Not safe

Online G&G Articles on Beryl

Online Texts on Beryl