Benitoite – the Californian Gemstone

Benitoite is a beautiful blue gemstone that is only found in gem quality in one place in the world.  It has the fire and reflective properties of diamond!

Benitoite rough and faceted

Flickr Photo by Taifighta

Why can’t I find benitoite at my local jewellery store?

Benitoite is the official state gemstone for California.  It is only found at the Benito Gem mine in the Diablo Range of San Benito County, California.  The shape of a benitoite crystal form the outline of the emblem of the  California Federation of Mineralogical Studies.

This rough specimen and 6.01 carat faceted specimen can be found at the Los Angeles Natural history Museum.

Benitoite, San Benito Co. California

Flickr Photo by Taifighta

The world’s largest faceted benitoite (over 15 carats)  is found in the Michael Scott Collection.  This collection came to the Royal Ontario Museum in 2008 and photographing was not allowed for the private collection.

As well as showing high dispersion (fire), Benitoite also has a very strong fluorescence.  Nearly all specimens are bright blue under short wave ultraviolet light and inert under long wave ultraviolet light.

Fluorescent Benitoite

Flickr Photo by Paul Garland

If you are interested in touring the Benitoite mine and collecting for a fee, visit the website of the California State Gem Mine.  This site also has a gallery of specimens that have been found recently and the history of  benitoite mining.

Flickr Photo by opacity

Why is benitoite only found in collector jewellery?

Benitoite is rare and expensive!

Your Input (Join our poll or scroll down and leave a comment)

I plan to introduce different gemstones alphabetically.  I will start with “A” (Ammolite) and see where it leads me.  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “C”.  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?


About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on June 13, 2011, in Individual Gemstones and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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