Benitoite: California State Gemstone
Benitoite is a beautiful blue to blue-purple gemstone that is almost exclusively found in California, USA. Though suited for jewelry its rarity makes it difficult to find the piece you want, though it certainly is worth the effort.
Benitoite one of the most beautiful gemstones on the market today. Unfortunately it is also one of the rarest and most expensive gemstones.
However if you are looking for unique jewelry or a great addition to your mineral or gemstone collection you simply can’t go wrong with benitoite.
What is Benitoite?
Benitoite is a silicate mineral that is only found in serpentinite that has been changed hydrothermally (by superheated water or steam).
Its color is almost always blue to purple blue, resembling the color of tanzanite. Though colorless specimens can be found and there are reports of pink benitoite.
The blue color is caused by either the presence of iron or titanium in the crystals.
First described in 1907 by George Louderback, it was named after the place where it was found: San Benito County in California.
Though deposits have been found in other countries, California remains the only source of gem quality benitoite. This led California to declare it the official state gemstone in 1985.
Benitoite has a good hardness of 6 to 6.5 on Mohs hardness scale. However because they are quite brittle it is probably best to buy a benitoite pendant, necklace or earrings.
If you simply must have a benitoite ring you should buy one that offers good protection to this precious stone.
The most amazing property of benitoite is that when you view it under ultraviolet light it shows a bright blue fluorescence. Which can be seen in the picture to the right. Benitoite has strong pleochroism and will change color from blue to colorless when viewed from a different angle.
Taking Care of Your Benitoite Gemstones
This blue gemstone requires some special care to keep its good looks. Here are some tips to help with that:
- Benitoite should be cleaned with warm water and soap. Diluted jewelry cleaner can be used, avoid harsh chemicals though. Dry it with a soft cloth and let it air for a few minutes before storing it.
- Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners are considered to be safe, however it is still best to avoid them. Benitoite is fairly brittle and it’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with this gemstone.
- Benitoite is heat sensitive, so keep it away from things like ovens and stoves. Jewelry steam cleaners are best avoided as well.
- Though benitoite has a good hardness it should still be stored separately, many other faceted gemstones can scratch it.
- Store it in a cool and dark place.
- Please be careful when wearing benitoite jewelry. It is not that hard to scratch or even chip it during physical work.
Benitoite Buying Guide
Unfortunately because benitoite is only found in a single location in the world its very rare. On top of that the Californian mines are not very productive, its estimated that only 5,000-10,000 carats of cuttable material has been found.
It doesn’t end there either, large benitoite is extremely rare and most gemstones are below one carat after they are cut. Just 200 benitoite gemstones larger than this have been found.
When you take all this in account it’s not hard to imagine that benitoite is quite expensive. High quality benitoite has recently been selling for over $1500 per carat and this is for gemstones under one carat!
When you are looking for benitoite around or over two carats you can expect to pay at least several thousand dollars per carat.
The most important things to look for when determining the price of benitoite are the usual 4 C’s: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat. As mentioned above carat is extremely important for the price of benitoite. However color is not that far behind, a deep blue color with a hint of purple is considered the best. Clarity is important as well, fortunately benitoite that is seen on the market is usually at least eye clean.
Benitoite is occasionally heat treated to improve its color. Heat treatment to create orange benitoite is possible, but extremely rare because there is no real market for it.
Benitoite should be cut in such a way that the dichroism is not visible when set in jewelry. Keep that in mind and carefully look at benitoite jewelry from all sides. Just to make sure that the blue color does not change or fade.
If you like this property that’s fine, however you should be getting a discount because it’s not valued as highly as benitoite without this property.
Though it is possible to synthesize benitoite it’s hardly seen on the market. Imitations are fairly scarce as well, because most people that buy benitoite are high-end collectors that are less likely to fall for a fake. The easiest way to recognize benitoite is by using an UV-light to see if the stone shows fluorescence, because this property is very hard to imitate.
The hardest thing with benitoite is to actually find a stone that you want to buy. It’s almost impossible to find at jewelry chains and even a large online retailer like Amazon is not selling a single piece of benitoite.
Even Ebay, which usually has thousands of auctions up for a mineral or gemstone, only has 136 benitoite auctions up. Most of these are rough benitoite with two dozen or so cut gems and only a handful pieces of benitoite jewelry.
So if you are looking for either a cut gemstone for your collection or simply want a unique piece of jewelry, it’s likely that you will need to buy a loose gemstone and get it set yourself. This certainly makes it harder than simply heading to your local jeweler and buying a diamond necklace.
What you get in return however is a gemstone that is extremely rare. So rare in fact that it’s likely that you will never see someone else with a piece of benitoite jewelry. Not only that, but the dispersion or sparkle of benitoite is very high. Higher than emeralds for example and almost the same as rubies.
If you want to obtain one of these marvelous gemstones it’s best to ask advice of a professional. They can help you avoid the common mistakes and should have the contacts needed to get the best quality and price. For most gemstones hiring a professional is prohibitively expensive, but for benitoite it certainly is worth looking into.
Benitoite Meaning and Benitoite Healing Properties
The name ‘Benito’ means blessed and you should consider yourself blessed if you own one of these fine gemstones.
The rarity and price of the benitoite gemstone means that it is almost unknown to the general public.
This includes crystal healers and gemstone therapists, as a result benitoite has little lore surrounding it.