Red Beryl: The Rare, Blazing Beauty of the Southwest
Red beryl, also known as bixbite, is a breathtaking gemstone that dazzles with its rich, deep-red hue. This gemstone is incredibly rare and only found in the southwestern United States, making it one of the most sought-after gemstones for collectors and jewelry enthusiasts. Its fiery red color and unique properties also make it stand out from other gemstones, adding a special touch to any piece of jewelry.
The color of red beryl ranges from a pinkish-red to a deep scarlet red, with the most prized specimens exhibiting a pure, bright-red color. This gemstone is also known for its remarkable clarity and brilliance, which is due to its high refractive index. Red beryl is typically cut into faceted shapes, such as round, oval, pear and cushion, which enhances its sparkle and beauty.
What sets red beryl apart from other gemstones is its unique chemical composition and crystal structure. Red beryl is a variety of beryl, a mineral that also includes emerald, aquamarine and morganite. Its chemical formula is Be_3Al_2Si_6O_18, which means it contains beryllium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen. Red beryl also has a hexagonal crystal system, which gives it a distinct six-sided shape.
Red beryl is formed in very specific geological conditions. It’s found in volcanic rhyolite and topaz-bearing rhyolite deposits in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah, and the Thomas Range of Utah and Nevada. It’s also found in the Black Range of New Mexico. The formation process involves a complex interplay of geological forces, including magma intrusion, hydrothermal activity and crystal growth under high pressure and temperature conditions.
Red beryl is a relatively soft gemstone, with a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale. This means it’s not as hard as diamond, but it’s still quite durable and can withstand daily wear with proper care.
Red beryl was discovered by Maynard Bixby in 1904 in the Thomas Range of Utah. Bixby was a mineral collector and amateur geologist who was searching for uranium deposits in the area. He came across a red crystal that he thought was a new mineral, but it turned out to be red beryl. Today, red beryl is still only found in a few locations in the United States, making it one of the rarest gemstones in the world.
Red beryl has a special significance in Native American culture. It’s believed to bring courage, strength and good fortune to those who wear it. According to legend, the red color of the stone comes from the blood of a great serpent that lived in the mountains.
There are several famous red beryl stones and jewelry pieces, including the “Scarlet Wonder” and “Red Beryl Suite” owned by the American Museum of Natural History. These gems are highly coveted and are often sold for top dollar at auction.
The typical carat weight of red beryl is relatively small, with most stones weighing less than 1 carat. Larger stones are extremely rare and can command high prices. Red beryl is usually cut into faceted shapes, but it can also be cut into cabochons and beads for use in jewelry.
Today, red beryl can be found at select gemstone dealers and auction houses. It’s a highly sought-after gemstone and often used in high-end jewelry pieces. Its rarity and unique beauty make it a valuable addition to any gemstone collection.
In conclusion, red beryl is a truly stunning gemstone that captures the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Its fiery red color, unique properties and rarity make it a highly prized gemstone for collectors and jewelry enthusiasts alike. The geological conditions required for its formation are complex and rare, and its discovery by Maynard Bixby in 1904 added to its mystique and allure. Red beryl has been an important part of Native American folklore and continues to hold special meanings for those who believe in its powers.
Whether as a centerpiece of a bespoke jewelry piece or as a treasured addition to a gemstone collection, red beryl stands out as a gemstone of rare beauty and significance. Its rich red color and remarkable clarity are a testament to the remarkable geological processes that created it. As one of the rarest gemstones in the world, red beryl is a true treasure that will continue to inspire awe and admiration for generations to come.
Photo of red beryl courtesy of Robert Weldon