Monday, February 27, 2012

"Benitoite" - the Blue Diamond of California !


Sometimes called the " blue diamond", it was first discovered near the headwaters of the San Benito River, in San Benito County, California in 1906, from which it derived its name. It was at first thought to be a varirty of Sapphire, because of it's blue color. The gem is extremely rare and ranges in color from a light transparent blue to dark, vivid sapphire blue, and occasionally it is found in a violet shade. Benitoite is a somewhat obscure, but it is a wonderful gemstone. Benitoite was designated as the Official State Gemstone of California in 1985.

Benitoite is associated with a few rare minerals such as black-red Neptunite, snow white Natrolite and brown-yellow Joaquinite . The only source of this rare combination occurs at San Benito, California. A rare cluster of blue Benitoite and black Neptunite on top of a crust of white Natrolite is a treat for collectors. Gems much over one carat are uncommon. The sapphire-blue or colorless crystals are small. Gem quality specimens larger than two carats are rare. Faceted stones are usually under 1 carat, the largest documented stone is 7.8 carats and resides at the Smithsonian. Benitoites sell for over $1000 per carat and the price has been raising rapidly as the deposit has been largely worked out and available gems sold.

In 2000, Brian Lees of Colorado purchased the site from the long time owners. He brought in a mining crew and worked the mine for five winters. The current owner is now Dave Schreiner who bought the mine from Lees in 2005. Dave's vision was to open up the mine to collectors, since it is probably the most famous gem location in the world, and is on everybody's list of "places to collect." So now thanks to Dave Schreiner, gemstone and mineral collectors alike have that rare opportunity to come and try and find this unique and rare genstone.

California is a virtual cornucopia of gems, with the best known being Tourmaline, Kunzite, Serpentine and Topaz, all available to the public at open mines where you can buy buckets of dirt to dig through. In recent years, top-notch finds have helped restore the region’s splendor.

Serpentine, a green Jade looking material, is considered the State rock and of course Native Gold, a picture of which is shown at the right, is the Official State mineral. Of all the states where gold is found, only Alaska also considers Native Gold to be its State mineral.