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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk

Bixbite: Red Beryl Gemstones

Faceted Red Beryl / Bixbite
Faceted Red Beryl / Bixbite

Emerald, renowned for its beauty, is the most well-known member of the beryl family, which also includes aquamarine, morganite, and golden beryl. However, emerald is not the rarest among the beryls. That distinction belongs to red beryl, also known as bixbite.

All members of the beryl family share a chemical composition of beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate. Interestingly, pure beryl is actually colorless, and its various colors arise from the presence of impurities. For instance, chromium and vanadium contribute to the green hue of emerald, while iron gives aquamarine and golden beryl their distinct colors. Manganese, on the other hand, imparts color to morganite and red beryl. Lastly, white or colorless beryl is referred to as goshenite.

Red beryl or bixbite was first described in 1904 based on a discovery at Maynard's Claim in the Thomas Mountains in Western Utah, USA. It was named after Maynard Bixby (1853-1935), an American mineralogist. The name bixbite has now been deprecated by CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, to avoid confusion with another mineral, bixbyite, also named after Maynard Bixby.

Concentrations of red beryl at the initial site were very small and the material was not gem-quality. Facetable material was not discovered until 1958 by Lamar Hodges, who was prospecting for uranium in the Wah Wah Mountains of Beaver County, in Southwestern Utah. Twelve claims were staked: Ruby, 1 through 4; and violet, 1 through 8. The claims were worked as a hobby mine by the Hodges family and by intermittent leases, known as the "Ruby Violet Claims."

Red Beryl (Bixbite) Crystal
Red Beryl (Bixbite) Crystal

In 1998 a company called Gemstone Mining, Inc. of Utah bought the Ruby Violet Claim for $10 million. The annual yield of red beryl from the mine is only about 5,000 to 7,000 carats a year. GMI is marketing the product as "red emerald," and touts it as one of the rarest gemstones in the world. Prices run as high as $10,000 per carat for top specimens. Most red beryl specimens are under one carat. A 2 to 3 carat stone would be considered very large.

Some of the red gems being marketed as red beryl or bixbite are actually pezzottaite, a new gemstone variety that was discovered in Madagascar. Pezzottaite is also very rare - but not yet as valuable as bixbite. It is a different mineral altogether, with a different chemical composition, density and refractive index. A new find of pezzottaite in Afghanistan has made this new gemstone more widely available. Red beryl is so rare that it is wise to always insist on certification from a recognized gemological lab when buying this gemstone.

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