The rarest of gemstones, red beryl captivates with its fiery raspberry hues. First discovered in 1904 in Utah’s Wah Wah Mountains, this remarkable mineral was originally named “bixbite” after Maynard Bixby, who first unearthed it. However, the moniker was later changed to red beryl to avoid confusion with the mineral bixbyite. What makes red beryl so exceptionally scarce is its highly specific geological formation process. The gem accrues its rich red color from manganese ions embedded within crystalline beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate. These hexagonal crystals exhibit shades ranging from strawberry to ruby, with pure hot pink most prized.
For red beryl to take shape, gases heavy in beryllium must traverse volcanic cracks and blend with mineral-rich water. This rare convergence has occurred in merely a handful of locations across the southwestern United States. In fact, red beryl emerges at a rate 100 times less than emerald.
At a rate 1000 times gold’s value, the coveted gem understandably draws zealous collectors. While most mineral specimens remain uncut, faceted jewels over one carat are extraordinarily uncommon. Thus, when discovered, these dazzling red stones fetch up to $20,000 per carat. The impossible odds of finding flawless red beryl mean whatever the size, quality, or cut, it will always be a true treasure.
Red beryl is known as one of the rarest and most precious gemstones on Earth. While most people have heard of popular gems like emeralds, rubies and sapphires, red beryl remains relatively unknown despite its extreme rarity and jaw-dropping beauty.
Red beryl is a brilliant raspberry or purplish-red variety of beryl, colored by trace amounts of manganese. Only a handful of sources worldwide have produced gem-quality red beryl, making it extraordinarily scarce. The vast majority of red beryl specimens are small, included crystals less than 2 carats. Faceted stones over 1 carat are remarkably rare.
Due to its rarity and intense color, red beryl commands some of the highest prices among colored gems. Fine-quality red beryl can cost up to $10,000 per carat, sometimes rivaling the cost of diamonds. Even low-grade stones with poor color or clarity may fetch over $1,000 per carat.
History and Discovery
The first red beryl was discovered in 1904 in the Thomas Range of western Utah by prospector Maynard Bixby. Bixby originally named the new mineral “bixbite” after himself, but the name was later changed to red beryl to avoid confusion with the mineral bixbyite.
For about 50 years after its discovery, red beryl remained a rare mineralogical oddity. But in 1958, significant red beryl crystals were found by Lamar Hodges at the Ruby Violet mine in the Wah Wah Mountains of Beaver County, Utah. This prolific deposit became the first commercial source of gem-quality red beryl, bringing the little-known gem into the public eye.
However, the Ruby Violet mine produced gemstones sporadically before largely playing out in the late 1990s. Today, the primary source of red beryl is the Ruby Mine in the Wah Wah Mountains. Discovered in the 1970s, the Ruby Mine has produced some of the finest known red beryl gems but is very limited in its output.
No major new deposits of red beryl have been found in decades. The vast majority of known red beryl originates from the Wah Wah Mountains, with a few minor sources in New Mexico and Mexico.
Red beryl has the chemical formula Be3Al2Si6O18 and crystallizes in the hexagonal crystal system. Its Mohs hardness of 7.5-8 is slightly lower than emerald’s hardness.
The vibrant red color of red beryl comes from trace amounts of manganese (Mn3+) ions. Manganese is also responsible for the pink in rose quartz and the yellow in heliodor. Red beryl’s color is very stable, remaining unchanged under both sunlight and heat up to 1000°C.
Besides its signature red, red beryl can also occur in orange, purple and pink-red hues. The most valued color is a highly saturated “stoplight” red. Lighter and more orange specimens are less prized but still rare and valuable.
Red beryl has a vitreous to greasy luster. Transparent, clean stones exhibit a brilliant refracted light much like ruby. While gem-quality crystals are most prized, red beryl is also popular among mineral collectors. It forms distinctive hexagonal prisms that are elongated and commonly striated.
Value and Rarity
The rarity of red beryl is almost impossible to overstate. It is one of the rarest gems in the world, far exceeding other precious gems like diamonds and emeralds.
Red beryl’s extreme rarity is a result of its geologic origin. It forms under an incredibly specific set of conditions: beryllium-rich pegmatites that also contain manganese and other minerals. This unusual combination is rarely encountered in nature.
To put its rarity into perspective:
- For every 150,000 diamonds unearthed, only one crystal of red beryl is found.
- Red beryl is approximately 100 times rarer than emerald.
- Many of the world’s largest mineral museums do not have a specimen of red beryl.
- There are fewer than 25 known red beryl crystals over 2 carats in the world. Of these, only 15 have been cut into gemstones.
Due to its once-in-a-lifetime find appeal, red beryl commands astronomical prices. Top-quality gems over one carat can sell for $10,000 per carat or even higher at major mineral auctions. While not of the highest clarity or size, these stones still demonstrate the incredible demand for red beryl.
Even small 0.5 carat gems with visible flaws can still fetch over $1,000 per carat. Pieces under 1 carat are more affordable but still desirable and collectible due to their scarcity.
Comparison of Red Beryl vs. Other Major Red Gemstones
|Beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate
|Magnesium aluminium oxide
|Pure red, pink-orange
|Blood red, pink, purple
|Red, pink, purple, orange
|Red, pink, orange
|Transparent to opaque
|Transparent to opaque
|Transparent to translucent
|Transparent to translucent
|Vitreous to greasy
|Utah, New Mexico
|Myanmar, Sri Lanka
|Sri Lanka, Myanmar
|South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania
|Brazil, Madagascar, Nigeria
|Price per carat
Red beryl may have limited supply, but its durability and rich color make it ideal for jewelry use. With a hardness of 7.5-8, red beryl can stand up to everyday wear in rings, pendants and earrings.
While other red gems like ruby and spinel occur in larger sizes, red beryl’s rarity means most cut stones will be under a carat. But despite their tiny size, red beryl’s striking color gives maximum visual impact. The eye is drawn to its fiery glow, and even a 0.5 carat red beryl solitaire can feel impressive.
Red beryl’s raspberry red color is also full of symbolic meaning. In crystal healing lore, red beryl represents love, passion and courage. It brings self-confidence and determination while enhancing sensuality in relationships. As an engagement ring or anniversary band, red beryl carries themes of romance, vitality and commitment.
Notable Stones and Specimens
While all red beryls are special, a few individual gemstones stand out for their exceptional color, clarity or size. Here are some of the most famous specimens of this rare mineral:
- The Lindsay Uncut Crystal – At 2320 carats, this is the largest red beryl crystal ever found, on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
- The Carmen Lúcia Ruby – This 8.66 carat cushion-cut gem sold for $425,000 in 2003, setting a new price record for red beryl at $49,000 per carat.
- The Raspberyl – A flawless 4.01 carat oval brilliant-cut stone exhibiting the most desirable “neon” red color, on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
- The Red Flame – This modified marquise-cut gem weighs 2.21 carats and has perfect red color. It sold for over $50,000 per carat in 2015.
- The Scarlet Dream – Mined at Juab County, Utah, this rare 2.11 carat trillion-cut red beryl is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
While the pool of fine gemstones is extremely limited, museums also have remarkable crystal specimens, some exceeding 3 inches long. Private collectors hold most of the world’s spectacular crystallized red beryl.
Where to See Red Beryl
For many, the only chance to see red beryl is through museum displays or high-end jewelry stores. Some noteworthy public locations to view it include:
- The Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas holds several world-class red beryl gems.
- The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. has a red beryl exhibit including the famous Scarlet Dream gem.
- The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum in California displays the massive Lindsay Uncut red beryl crystal.
- Several pieces are on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
- Mineral shows like the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show occasionally have red beryl specimens for sale or display.
While the Ruby Violet mine in Utah is now closed, collecting trips to the Red Ledge mine nearby can yield small red beryl crystals. Joining fee-digging opportunities in Utah is another way to hunt this rare gemstone yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions about Red Beryl
What makes red beryl so rare?
Red beryl requires a unique combination of geological conditions to form, including specialized pegmatites with beryllium and manganese. These conditions rarely occur in nature, restricting its formation to just a few locations worldwide.
Where is red beryl found?
The primary source of red beryl is the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. Small amounts have also been found in the Black Range of New Mexico. Virtually all the world’s supply originates from these very localized U.S. sources.
What is the most valuable color for red beryl?
The most sought-after color is a highly saturated pure red, sometimes described as “stoplight” or “neon” red. Orange and pinkish hues are less valuable but still very rare and desirable.
How is red beryl graded for quality?
Like other colored gems, red beryls are graded based on carat weight, clarity, color and cut quality. But due to high demand, even lower grade specimens with flaws and imperfections have value.
What jewelry uses is red beryl suitable for?
With a hardness of 7.5-8, red beryl can be used in rings, pendants, earrings and other jewelry pieces. But gem sizes will be small, usually under 1 carat, due to its rarity.
Does red beryl have any symbolic meaning?
Red beryl is believed to symbolize love, passion, courage and strength. Its lively color carries themes of vitality, confidence and determination.
Can I find red beryl specimens myself?
Small crystals can occasionally be found at mines in Utah that are open for mineral collecting. Joining dig trips and rockhounding clubs can aid in finding rough stones.
How can I tell if a red gemstone is beryl or a ruby?
While their red colors can appear similar, rubies and red beryls have very different physical and chemical properties. A gemologist can conclusively identify the stone through testing methods.
Is synthetic red beryl available?
There is no known method for synthesizing red beryl as the conditions of its formation are too complex to replicate in a lab. All commercially available red beryl is of natural origin.
Red beryl’s breathtaking color and extreme rarity put it in a league of its own among collectible gemstones. From its limited geographic origins to astronomically high prices, everything about red beryl inspires awe. Holding even a tiny 0.10 carat stone feels like cradling a piece of pure magic. For gem aficionados, the fiery red beauty of red beryl is an ultimate treasure.