RARER THAN DIAMONDS: Where to unearth Utah’s most expensive gemstone

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UTAH (ABC4) – Utah is home to many interesting treasures, and some of them are actually more valuable than gold and rarer than diamonds.

But where can you find such treasure? Well, you can actually find it tucked away in the Thomas Range and the Wah Wah Mountains in west-central Utah.

According to the Utah Geological Survey, Utah is one of the two places in the entire world that is home to red beryl. This gemstone, also known by several other names such as red emerald, or bixbite, is estimated to be worth 1,000 times more than gold. It is so rare that one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds.

“In 1904, Maynard Bixby discovered red beryl in the Thomas Range located in Juab County, Utah. Bixby thought it might be a new variety of beryl, but the raspberry-red color did not correlate with any beryl known to exist at that time,” UGS shares.

Officials say the jewel was most commonly discovered in hues of green, blue, pink, yellow, and clear/white during the 1900s.

According to UGS, as this discovery was made, the mineral was then identified as a new type of beryl in 1905 by W.F. Hillebrand, a geochemist from the National College in Washington, D.C.

In 1912, the blush stone was then officially named after its discoverer: bixbite.

Red beryl | Courtesy of the Utah Geological Survey

As teams continued to investigate the new crystal, they discovered that the amount of manganese and small amounts of iron, chromium, and calcium were all key players in creating its raspberry-red tone.

But how did the gemstone come into creation? And why in Utah?

Officials tell ABC4 that an eruption of a topaz rhyolite lava from volcanic vents in the Utah desert resulted in the rare stone’s genesis.

“As the lava began to cool, shrinkage cracks formed, creating pathways for high-temperature gases rich in beryllium to escape. Oxidized surface water also began seeping into these cracks and mixed with the rising beryllium gases. The gases reacted with the surface water, silica, alkali feldspar, and iron-manganese oxides from the lava to form red beryl crystals,” the survey explains.

According to the Utah Geological Survey, red beryl is presently found at only three locations in the entire world: the Thomas Range and the Wah Wah Mountains in west-central Utah, and the Black Range in New Mexico.

beryllium mineral deposit model
Mineral deposit model for beryllium, showing examples for red beryl localities in Utah and New Mexico. Illustration by the United States Geological Survey

“In the Thomas Range, red beryl occurs primarily as short, flat, hexagonal crystals or more rarely as elongated, barrel-shaped crystals,” they add. “The crystals are generally up to 2 –10 mm long and 4 – 6 mm thick. Many of these crystals are too small to be faceted. They are found in cavities and fractures within the Topaz Mountain rhyolite that erupted approximately 6 to 7 million years ago from volcanic vents in the area.”

Officials say that small crystals can be found in an area called “the Cove,” where they may be attached to other minerals such as topaz, bixbyite, garnet, pseudobrookite, or hematite.

“Larger crystals that have been faceted into gemstones have been found in the northwest part of the Thomas Range near Wildhorse Springs,” UGS chimes.

Red beryl | Courtesy of Mt. Lily Gems

When comparing the gemstone to gold prices, red beryl crystals from this location that have been faceted sell for an average of $2,000 per carat. For comparison, gold is currently worth $300 to $320 per ounce (one ounce is equal to 155 carats).

For more information regarding red beryl, the Utah Geological Survey reccomends contacting the Natural Resources Map & Bookstore at (801) 537-3320, or toll-free at 1 (888) UTAHMAP.

The bookstore has several rock and mineral publications available for purchase that describe areas where to collect red beryl.

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