Recently I find myself staring off into the canals of Venice more often (perhaps partially due to the particularly intense season of acqua alta the city is experiencing which brings the water up to your front door if not well inside), admiring the myriad of shades the water can be depending on the time of day and weather. The mineral Beryl enters this reverie stage left as its various forms serve as perfect adjectives for describing the greenish-blues of Venice’s watery arteries: a milky emerald green to an iridescent aquamarine. In fact, the word beryl comes from the Greek beryllos, meaning “precious color-of-the-sea stone.” That said, Beryl is actually colorless in its pure form (Goshenite), and only because of the slight presence of trace elements does it come in a prismatic array of colors: Bixbite (red), Morganite (peach/ pink), Heliodor (yellow, yellow/ green), Emerald (green), Acquamarine (green/ blue).
Beryl’s hardness of 7.5/ 8 on the Moh’s scale and vitreous luster, together with these color variations, make it a highly desirable stone. Indeed, found around the world, hiding out mostly in granititic pegmatites (crystalline igneous rocks), Beryl has been prized by many cultures. The Egyptians used emeralds in their jewelry, the Greeks found beryl additionally useful for curing eye ailments and kidney stones, and 16th Century magicians believed it to bring its bearer victory in debates while still managing to come off amiable. In further gemstone lore, Beryl is believed to attract love, strengthen relationships, reduce fear, encourage truth, protect sailors (against seasickness and storms) and can ward off demons (though I remember reading in the American Museum of Natural History in New York that it could also be used to summon the devil). And, try this at home: the next time you lose something, if you hold a beryl in your hands and visualize the misplaced object, supposedly the whereabouts will be revealed to you.