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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Chrysoberyl

Photograph of chrysoberyl (NMNH G4905) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G4905-00
Locality Minas Gerais, Brazil
Weight 114.3 ct

Obtained in an exchange in 1972.

Chrysoberyl is a beryllium aluminum oxide and is colorless when in its pure form. Trace amounts of iron color the mineral yellow (as seen here), brown, and green. Chrysoberyl is an extremely hard and durable mineral. It is most commonly found as greenish-yellow crystals. Although better known for the rare and valuable cat’s eye and alexandrite varieties, chrysoberyl is also cut into such attractive gems as this 114.25ct stone from Minas Gerais, Brazil. Chrysoberyl gems were popular in 18th and 19th century Portuguese and Spanish jewelry and in Victorian England, but today are not widely seen in jewelry. The name Chrysoberyl comes from the Greek word “chrysos,” meaning golden, and the mineral beryl. It was thought to be a type of beryl until the late 18th century, when it was recognized as a distinct mineral.

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