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Roger Weller, geology instructor

red beryl
by Alan Barnett
Physical Geology
Fall 2011


Red Beryl

     Red beryl also called red emerald or bixbite is very rare variety of the mineral beryl. Its raspberry-red color has been shown to come from the impurities of manganese and small amounts of iron, chromium, and calcium. Red beryl has the same hardness (7.5-8) and chemical composition (Be3Al2Si6O18) as any other beryl but what makes this gemstone really unique is that it is only found in three places in the world and all three places are in the United States.

Description: F:\Red beryl\httpskywalker.cochise.eduwellerrmineralberylberyl12.htm.jpg

(Photo credited to Roger Weller/ Cochise College)

     Red beryl was originally found in 1904 by Maynard Bixby at Topaz Cove in the Thomas Range of Utah. At the time the only known colors of beryl were green, blue, pink, yellow, white, and clear. The new variety of beryl was first identified by W.F. Hillebrand, a geochemist from the National College in Washington, D.C., and was named Bixbite in honor of its discoverer in 1912 by Dr. A. Eppler. However, the deposits Bixby had found were not of gem quality and were not in economic concentrations. It wasn’t until 1958 that Lamar Hodges, a prospector looking for uranium in Utah, discovered gem-quality red beryl in the Wah Wah Mountains of Beaver County, Utah. It was Hodges who originally staked twelve unpatented claims that would be known as the Ruby Violet claims. Eventually, Hodges sold his claims for $8000 to the Harris family of Delta, Utah, whom started actively mining the claims and producing the gem quality red beryl. As of 1994 Kennecott Exploration Company entered into an agreement with the mine owners to purchase the mine and surrounding claims.



     Another thing that makes red beryl unique is that it is one of the only gems that are not found in pegmatite, volcanic rock with very large crystals, but in rhyolite. The formation of red beryl took place around 100 to 125 million years ago when the area that is now Southwest Utah experienced an extensive period of volcanic activity. Volcanic flows, eruptions and intrusions left volcanic domes and flows that were 1,200 meters thick. One of these formations, the Blawn Wash topaz rhyolite, is the host formation for the red beryl deposit. When these rhyolite lava flows began to cool, they formed shrinkage cracks which acted as pathways for beryllium gases to escape. As these gases approached the surface, they met oxidized surface water seeping down. These beryllium gases reacted with the surface water, silica, alkali feldspar, and iron manganese oxides in the lava to form red beryl crystals at temperatures between 300 to 650 degrees Celsius.



     Most specimens of fine red beryl crystals found at the Violet Ruby claims are not faceted and are zealously guarded by mineral collectors. There have been fewer the 10,000 stones that are cut per year with most of those being lower grades. The largest crystal ever found was 14mm x 34mm and weighed approximately 54 carats. The rarity of this gemstone can be seen when the Jeweler's Association in 2006 named bixbite the rarest gem on earth. Red beryl has been advertised with the statement only one woman in two million would ever own a stone of one carat size. The best quality red beryl have a stop light color, are extremely rare and can sell for over $10,000 a caret when faceted. Today, Russian synthetic red beryl has appeared on the market fill in the void left by the rare, natural red beryl. Currently, the only known deposits of red beryl occur in Thomas Range in the western desert of Utah, the Black Range in Sierra County, New Mexico, and the Violet Claims in the Wah Wah Mountains (Beaver County) in south central Utah, which only produces red beryl crystals in area of about 900 x 1900 meters.

Works Cited