TIL #3—Red Beryl

3 min readFeb 14, 2022

For every 150,000 diamonds, only 1 red beryl gemstone is found.

Illustration of Red Beryl

Setting the Stage

Rhyolite is an extrusive igneous rock while its cousin, granite, is an intrusive igneous rock.

Extrusive: magma that breaches Earth’s surface, becoming lava.
Intrusive: magma that fails to breach Earth’s surface.
Igneous: rocks that result from magma or lava cooling.

Like people, rocks are a product of their environment. While both rhyolite and granite originate from the same source, it’s the environment in which they “grow up” that determines their eventual properties and chemical make-up.

Due to being underground, granite takes a looong time to cool, allowing the crystallization process to mature into forming large crystals that are visible to the naked eye (e.g., mica, feldspar, quartz).

On the contrary, rhyolite cools quickly. And as a result, its crystals are tiny and often too small to see without magnification.

But … what if? 😏

History & Formation

Because red beryl crystalizes within rhyolite, it remains one of the rarest gemstones in the world. In fact, red beryl is so rare that for every 150,000 diamonds, only 1 red beryl gemstone is found. Furthermore, there is only one place on earth where you can to find gemstones large enough to facet: Utah.

While prospecting uranium in the Wah Wah Mountains—50 miles west of Beaver, Utah—Lamar Hodges stumbled upon a deposit of the rare gemstone in 1958; this was merely the second discovery since 1904.

Hodges worked the deposit for the next 18 years before transferring mineral rights to the property to Rex Harris in 1976. Since then, the Harris family have excavated and extracted red beryl from the “Ruby Violet” mine (seen here) while occasionally leasing it to corporations. According to Harris, the process of mining red beryl is arduous.

“Sometimes we’d go two, three months without finding anything,” Harris stated during a 2004 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “Then all of a sudden, someone would pull down some rock and there would be several hundred thousand dollars worth of crystals. Those were the high-blood-pressure moments well worth the work and the wait.”

For red beryl to form in rhyolite, the “geochemical environment” (i.e., temperature, pressure, time, location, surrounding chemical composition, etc.) has to be perfect. And because this perfection is rare, researchers estimate that a mere quarter-carat of red beryl is found for each ton of rhyolite at Ruby Violet.

Due to its rarity, the price of red beryl is prone to fluctuate. Nonetheless, buyers should count on a single gemstone costing more than its weight in gold or diamond (up to $30,000 per carat), which is partially why experts call it “the Holy Grail for rock hounds and mineral collectors.”

To date, the largest faceted red beryl gemstone weighs in at about 4.5 carats. According to a Forbes article from 2015, that particular gemstone could sell for $45,000.

So if you are on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry that neither Harry Winston nor Tiffany & Co. could compete with, try your hand at some red beryl! It may take you more than a few thousand swings with a pickaxe, but at least it will make for a showpiece as unique as an infinity stone.

Happy Valentine’s Day.