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Gemology: B is for ....

... well, what is B for? A lot of the 'B' minerals are not well known unless you're a collector. You might think of bloodstone, and maybe beryl, but after that it's easy to get stuck! We've found ten gemstone varieties beginning with B so you can expand your knowledge with our quick easy gemology read.

Selection of Gemstones

On this page you will find the colourful world of Bastnaesite, Benitoite, Beryl, Binghamite, Bixbite, Bloodstone, Blue John, Bort, Brazilianite and Burmite.

Bastnaesite Bastsaenite was first discovered and named in Sweden in the early 1800s, and it can also be found in America, Africa and China. It varies in colour from an amber-yellow to a rich blood-orange, but unfortunately minerals of gem-cutting quality are extremely rare. It doesn't particularly sparkle so is more often considered a gem-collector's piece rather than desirable for jewellery.

A Rough Cut Bastnasite Gem

Image Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Benitoite Benitoite is extremely rare, and rather a stunner! So far it has only been found in San Benito, California, and is a relative new-comer to the gemstone scene, having first been documented in 1907. Benitoite is very similar in appearance to sapphire, but closer inspection shows a different structure - and a higher value per carat. You can dig for benitoite yourself at the Benitoite Gem Mine tourist attraction, where you can keep what you find. If you're lucky enough to find a gem bigger than 1 carat you'd recoup the cost of your entire Californian holiday! Happy digging!

Raw Benitoite Crystal in Ore

Image Attribution: By Didier Descouens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Beryl Beryl is a transparent mineral that is clear in its pure form but comes in a number of stunning gem stone colours with natural impurities. If you've never heard of beryl you're sure to have heard of emerald and aquamarine - both are forms of coloured beryl! Beryl crystals can grow rather large (refer to our last blog, Ten Fun Fascinating (and just plain weird) Jewellery Facts, to learn about an exceptionally large emerald!). The rarest and most expensive form of beryl is Bixbite, a red gem found only in Utah.

Selected Beryl Gemstone Variants

Image shows: 1. Golden Beryl. 2. Heliodore. 3. Emerald. 4. Aquamarine. 5. Morganite

Image Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0,


Binghamite, also known as Silkstone, and American Tiger Eye for its chatoyency (narrow band of refracted light, like a cat's pupil), was discovered by Bill Bingham in 1936 in a little place in Minnesota. It's a form of Chalcedony (you'll have to wait for our Gemology blog beginning with C for that one!), found in deep ambers and golden browns. Although it's a rare gem it's not particularly valuable, and you can pick up some rather nice binghamite pieces for under $100.

Raw Binghamite Slab Showing Range of Colour

Image Attribution: By James St. John (Binghamite (Cuyuna North Range, Minnesota, USA) 5) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Bixbite (Red Beryl)

The rarest gemstone of the Beryl family, – which also includes Emerald and Aquamarine –Bixbite is a clear red gem with a value as high as US$10,000 per carat for high quality specimens. Bixbite was first discovered in Utah in 1904, but the first gemstone quality pieces weren't discovered until 1958.

Bixbite Red Beryl Crystal

Image Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Bloodstone (Heliotrope)

Bloodstone, like Binghamite, is another form of chalcedony. It's a dark blue-green colour but gets its name from the blood red spotting that may be present throughout. Bloodstone is the traditional birthstone for March, before the more popular aquamarine took over. It's not a rare gemstone and can be found in India, Brazil and Australia. Carrying bloodstone with you is said to protect you from threats, increase mental clarity, and ward off infections.


Image Attribution: By Ra'ike (see also: de:Benutzer:Ra'ike) (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Blue John Blue John is a semi-precious gemstone found only in two caverns in Castleton, Derbyshire in the UK. It's a form of fluorite streaked with attractive bands of purple and yellow colouring, and it just so happens to be a favourite of this author! The name is a misnomer, coming from the French blue-jeune, meaning blue-yellow. Blue John can be mined in quite large pieces which were popularly carved into bowls and ornaments in the nineteenth century, and the gemstone remains popular in jewellery today.

This huge ornately carved Blue John bowl is on display at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Image Attribution: By Pasicles (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bort Not a gemstone you would necessarily choose for jewellery, bort refers to an opaque, imperfectly formed diamond crystal. 'Bort' is the diamond used in industry for cutting and drilling.

Imperfect Diamond Crystal Bort

Image Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Brazilianite Brazilianite is a beautiful yellow-lime translucent crystal first noted in Brazil in 1944.. Larger crystals are often flawed, but smaller crystals make beautiful gemstone jewellery.

Large Translucent Brazilianite Crystals

Image Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Burmite (Burmese Amber) Burmite is a form of amber; the rarest form of amber in the world. It's harder and more valuable than other forms of amber, and every piece is at least 100million years old. Amber is an organic gemstone, not a crystal, being formed from the fossilised resin of ancient trees. Burmite can be found in colours varying from translucent yellow to a rich deep red, and often changes hue according to the light cast on it. As its name suggests, Burmite is only found in Burma, in the northern Kachin State.

Large Piece of Polished Rare Burmite

Burmite Amber, Image Attribution: Real Rare Antiquities,

Next week: "Wedding Day Good Luck Bad Luck", Make sure your special day goes without a hitch with these good luck charms for the bride, groom, and ceremony.


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