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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Beryls

Photograph of green, blue, and yellow varieties of beryl from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
SpecimenCatalog NumberLocalityWeight
Beryl (var. heliodor)NMNH G3725-00Minas Gerais, Brazil2,054 ct
Beryl (var. aquamarine)NMNH G3889-00Minas Gerais, Brazil1,000 ct
Beryl (var. aquamarine)NMNH G4348-00Minas Gerais, Brazil911 ct
Beryl (var. green beryl)NMNH G3919-00Minas Gerais, Brazil914.4 ct
Beryl (var. green beryl)NMNH G3916-00Minas Gerais, Brazil1,363.3 ct

Gift of Evyan Perfumes, Inc. in 1963.

Impurities of iron in different chemical states are responsible for the colors in these aquamarines and green beryls from Brazil, ranging in weight from 911 to 2,054 carats. When beryl is a rich blue to blue-green color, the gem is called aquamarine. If the beryl is green, but not an intense rich green to be called emerald, the gem is simply called green beryl. The 1,000 carat emerald cut aquamarine (pictured upper left), known as the Most Precious, was a gift of Evyan Perfumes in 1963. The 2,054 carat yellowish-green rectangular step cut beryl and the 914 carat modified round brilliant cut green beryl were cut by John Sinkankas. The other two beryls in the photograph are a deep blue step cut aquamarine weighing 911 carats and a yellowish-green square step cut beryl weighing 1,363 carats.

About beryl

The mineral beryl has many beautiful gem varieties: intense green emerald, blue to blue-green aquamarine, golden yellow heliodor, rare red beryl, and pink morganite. Beryl, in its pure form, is colorless. The rich hues of its gems are caused by a variety of impurity atoms that were incorporated in the crystals as they grew. When beryl is green, but not intense enough in color to be called emerald, it is simply called green beryl. The various shades of green beryl can range from light green to yellowish or bluish green and are due to impurities of iron.  Aquamarine, as the name suggests, exhibits the variable color of the sea. Its color depends on the relative amounts of impurities of iron in two different chemical states (Fe+2 and Fe+3). Aquamarine ranges in color from light blue to a pure blue and to shades of greenish-blue. The yellow glow of heliodor is due to impurities of iron. Heliodor gets its name from two Greek words meaning sun and gift. Morganite, or pink beryl, gets it delicate hue from trace quantities of manganese. Morganite ranges in color from pink or rose to peach to light violet. It was named by the renowned gemologist George F. Kunz after his patron, financier J. P. Morgan.The National Museum of Natural History has an extensive collection of beryl gems and minerals on exhibit.


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