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Ukrainian beryl, a valuable gem material


Probably everyone knows what is emerald, but only geologists, jewellers and the curious know that emeralds, aquamarine and some other gemstones are varieties of beryl.


Precious stones that are found in nature, these crystals like flowers, budding amid solid rock have always been a source of fascination for people.

Today, as always, the value of a gem depends on the additional factors of rarity and fashion. These qualities, combined with the remoteness of so many gem mines, have surrounded gems with an aura of romance and mystery, and with good cause. Nature does not make many of them.

The natural laws that create gem crystals also create common table salt and the dancing snowflake. Some crystals, such as diamonds, require tremendous pressures and temperatures. Diamond is composed of pure carbon. Emerald and aquamarine give us another example of two popular gems deriving from the same mineral. In this case, it is beryl, a beryllium aluminum silicate. The colours in beryl are produced by trace elements. Beryl that is tinted blue or greenish blue by a trace of iron is called aquamarine. Beryl coloured green by a touch of chromium is the stone we call emerald.

Gemstones are minerals that are treasured for their beauty and durability. A large number of minerals have been used as gems. Their value generally depends on four elements: the beauty of the stone itself; its rarity; its hardness and toughness; and the skill with which it has been cut and polished. Stones such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds represent one of the greatest concentrations of money value. During times of war or economic disturbance many people convert their wealth into precious stones, which are transportable and more easily sold.

The beauty of gems depends to a large extent on their optical properties. The most important optical properties are the degree of refraction and colour. Other properties include fire, the display of prismatic colours; dichroism, the ability of some gemstones to present two different colours when viewed in different directions; and transparency. Diamond is highly prized because of its fire and brilliancy, ruby and emerald because of the intensity and beauty of their colours, and star sapphire and star ruby because of the star effect, known as asterism, as well as for their colour. The appearance of a gem as seen by reflected light is another optical property of gemstones and is called lustre. The lustre of gems is characterized by the terms metallic, adamantine (like the lustre of the diamond), vitreous (like the lustre of glass), resinous, greasy, silky, pearly, or dull. Lustre is particularly important in the identification of gemstones in their uncut state.

Beryl is a mineral and, in certain varieties, a valuable gem material. Chemically it consists of aluminum beryllium silicate, and it is the chief commercial ore of beryllium. Pure beryl is colourless and transparent. Emerald, one of the most valuable gems, is a variety that is coloured green by minute amounts of chromium. Aquamarine, also a gemstone, is a blue beryl, more common than emerald. Golden beryl and morganite or rose beryl are less valuable. Colourless beryl is occasionally used as a gem under the name goshenite. Beryl has a vitreous lustre with little fire or brilliancy, and so its value depends principally on hardness, transparency, and colour.

Beryl crystallizes in the hexagonal system. Large lettuce-green opaque crystals, some weighing over a ton, are found embedded in a variety of granite called pegmatite. Large, transparent crystals of the coloured varieties are occasionally found.

Common beryl of nongem quality is present in many pegmatites, usually disseminated in small crystals. Large crystals, however, have been found: a 200-ton crystal was found in Brazil; a crystal 5.8 m (19 feet) long and 1.5 m (5 feet) in diameter was discovered in the Black Hills, South Dacota, U.S.; and a radiating group of large crystals, the largest (18 tons) with a length of 5 m and a diameter of 1 m, was discovered in Albany, U.S.

Before 1925 beryl was used only as a gemstone. Thereafter, many important uses were found for beryllium, and common beryl has been widely sought as the ore of this rare element. Among the largest deposits of heliodor, a clear yellow variety of beryl, are the ones to be found in Ukraine.


Varieties of beryl have been used as gemstones since ancient times. Etymologically, the word beryl is traced to the Sanskrit but in the new European languages it has definitely come from the Greek beryllos. Varieties of beryl come in different colours and shades  from green through red to green and yellow. Heliodor of Ukraine is golden yellow.

Jewellers prefer to call beryl only its pink and yellow varieties which are often ranked right after the emerald in value, and which are used in making ear rings, rings, pendants, brooches, diadems and other pieces of jewelry which require the presence of precious stones.

In general, beryl crystals are larger in size than emeralds, and some truly gigantic. The sceptre of the Polish king Stanislas carries a beryl 30 centimetres long, and one of the British royal crowns is adorned with an aquamarine of 920 karats. The heliodor ranks lower than the aquamarine as a gem but is very popular with collectors. The heliodor of Ukraine is of the best quality as far as the colour and transparency are concerned.

Heliodor is commercially mined from the deposits in the land of Volyn. These deposits are considered to be among the most important ones in the world. The word heliodor is definitely derived from the Greek word Helios, the sun god. And the name is quite justifiable. The heliodor goes very well with gold and other precious metals used in jewellery. The Sofiyska Brama Gallery in Kyiv specializes in exhibiting and selling jewellery, in which heliodor is liberally used. Some of the jewellery pieces are quite unique and are a Sofiyska Brama specialty  large brooches, for example, to be worn on overcoats.

The Ukrainian heliodor is of a very high quality with hardly any rivals, except maybe for the heliodor from the deposits in Zabaykallye, Russia. The Ukrainian heliodor is almost as geologically old as the emeralds from the deposits in South Africa.

Like all the other precious stones, the heliodor is believed to possess some very special energy and even magic powers. Beryl in general is believed to be the protector of travellers, researchers, philosophers and gamblers. It is also good as a talisman of love and fidelity. At the same time, it is believed to be helpful in soothing the nerves, and affecting in a positive way the respiratory system and the heart. The beryl is even believed to have a link with our subconscious.

In modern horoscopes, beryl and its varieties are connected with several signs of the Zodiac  the emerald with Taurus the Bull, Virgo the Virgin and Sagittarius the Archer; the yellow-pink beryl with Cancer the Crab, Leo the Lion, Libra the Scales and Scorpio the Scorpion; the aquamarine with the Scorpion, Aquarius the Water Bearer and Pisces the Fish.

The aquamarine is believed to change its colour depending on the mood the wearer or owner is in. The pure and transparent aquamarine absorbs information but one must be careful not to programme ill feelings into it  it can backfire. The aquamarine harmonizes emotions, brings serenity and peacefulness to the soul.


Why is it worth investing money into the beryl gemstones? The first and obvious reason  beryl in some of its varieties is the most accessible precious stone in Ukraine. The heliodor and aquamarine from Volyn are one billion seven hundred years old  and it puts them among the oldest precious stones on earth. The heliodor and aquamarine being crystals, carry an enormous amount of information, which will one day, when it is deciphered, tell us an exciting story of how the Earth came into being. And a lot more. The Volyn deposits will surely give us gems that will be better than any mined in any other deposits in the world. Imagine  you are wearing a piece of jewellery with a magic stone in it which is almost as old as the earth?

Vsevolod Chornousenko,

Chief Geologist with the Open

Joint-Stock Company KvartsSamotsvity


Among the precious stones we offer, you will find the best beryl gems of beautiful, intense colours. With the passage of time, the deposits of precious stones are being depleted, and the cost of the stones goes up all the time. Jewellers create marvels using these stones. At the Sofiyska Brama Gallery you will be expertly assisted in your search for a gem that will suit you best. Beryl gems adorn your life, give you self-confidence, and protect you in your travels. May the Ukrainian beryl become a hallmark of Ukraine!

Olena Voloshko,

Director of Sofiyska Brama

Jewellery Gallery


The article has been compiled

from the materials provided

by Yevhen Budko, the Senior Editor

of the Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazine.

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