Benitoite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

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Benitoite, Dallas Gem Mine, San Benito County, California, trillion cut, 2.29 cts. © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.

With dispersion higher than diamond and sapphire-blue body color, benitoite is one of the most attractive of all rare gems. Gem-quality crystals have been found only in San Benito County, California.

Benitoite Value

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.5 to 1 carat
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1 carat plus
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This gem is quite expensive. Rich blue, clean stones at carat and above sizes can command high prices. Clarity enhances value, especially eye clean or better scores. Very light and very dark stones reside at the lower end of the value spectrum. At the pinnacle, you’ll find medium-dark stones.

Benitoite Information

Data Value
Name Benitoite
Crystallography Hexagonal. Crystals triangular in shape, flattened, very distinctive.
Crystallographic Forms
Refractive Index 1.757-1.804
Colors Blue (various shades), purple, pink, white, colorless. Sometimes zoned.
Luster Vitreous
Hardness 6-6.5
Wearability Very Good
Fracture Conchoidal to uneven
Specific Gravity 3.64-3.68
Birefringence 0.047
Cleavage Indistinct
Dispersion 0.046
Luminescence Intense blue in SW. Blue stones have no reaction to LW. Colorless stones, dull red in LW.
Luminescence Present Yes
Luminescence Type Fluorescent, UV-Long, UV-Short
Transparency Translucent to transparent
Formula BaTiSi3O9
Pleochroism Strong: o = colorless, e = blue.
Optics o = 1.757; e = 1.804. Uniaxial (+)
Optic Sign Uniaxial +
Etymology After the locality, San Benito County, California.
Occurrence Crystals in massive, fine-grained, white natrolite.
Inclusions Fibrous amphibole and pyroxene, crystals, two phase inclusions, fractures, fingerprints, needles.
Typical Treatments Heat Treatment
Enhancements Heating can turn colorless benitoites orange.
benitoites - faceted
Benitoite: San Benito County, California (1.19, 0.66,1.07 // 1.08, 1.15, 1.30). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

What is Benitoite?

Declared the state gem of California in 1985, benitoite was discovered in 1907. At first, opinions about the material’s identity ranged from volcanic glass to spinel and, due particularly to its color, sapphire. However, the stone’s greater dispersion and birefringence values distinguished it from sapphire. Further examination revealed it as a new gemstone.

Benitoite colors can range from various shades of blue to white and, more rarely, pinkish or colorless. Rough can show color zoning.

benitoites - rough and cut
The faceted and rough benitoites in the back row show color zoning. San Benito County, California. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Does Benitoite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

With a hardness of 6.5, benitoites are tough enough for most jewelry applications. However, household dust, a common daily hazard, can still scratch them. Thus, protective settings are recommended, especially for ring use. Otherwise, this collector’s gem is very wearable.

What’s the Best Way to Cut Benitoites?

Benitoite’s sometimes intense blue color usually masks its high dispersion, which can potentially cause stones to twinkle with red and green flashes. Then again, the stone’s scarcity also masks it from the general public, who remain largely unaware of this gem. Nevertheless, when the time comes to cut this rare stone, consumers face a choice between dispersion and body color.

benitoite jewelry
Benitoite jewelry. Photo courtesy of Barbara Smigel, Artistic Colored Stones.

While some admirers will forgo the dispersive display for a darker blue stone, others will want a lighter stone with more evident dispersion. The gem pictured to the right shows a balance between rich body color and visible dispersion.

Because of the rarity of this material, even custom gem cutters sacrifice the cut to produce the largest possible gems. Thus, you’ll commonly find windows and less than optimal proportions in faceted stones.

Flattened, triangular, typically small crystals show strong blue/colorless dichroism. However, to obtain the blue color, faceters usually orient the crystal along e. This yields good color but smaller gems.

Are There Synthetic Benitoites?

Laboratories have created synthetic colorless crystals too small to facet.

Do Benitoites Receive Enhancements?

Heating can turn colorless benitoites orange. These stones will then show orange/pink dichroism. However, this treatment can also destroy gems due to inclusions exploding in the process. (See “Inclusions” in the Benitoite Information table above).

Where are Benitoites Found?

Only mines in San Benito County, California yield gem-quality material. However, this source unfortunately ceased production in 2005.

Other sources include the following:

  • United States: Hot Springs County, Arkansas; Fresno County, Kern County, California.
  • Australia; Czech Republic; Japan.
benitoite on matrix
This specimen features a benitoite crystal with a rare ditrigonal-dipyramidal shape. Dallas Gem Mine, San Benito County, California, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

Crystals can reach a size of ~2 inches across. However, facetable areas are always very small because crystals are badly flawed. Most gems weigh under 1 carat but may reach 2-3 carats. Finished gems are almost always under 1 carat and usually less than 0.5 carat. Larger stones are exceedingly rare.

The Smithsonian Institution holds the largest stone on record, 7.8 cts.

A 6.52-ct gem was cut for a private collector but stolen in transit.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York holds a 3.57-ct gem.

Caring for Your Benitoite Jewelry

Due to inclusions, avoid cleaning benitoites with mechanical processes, such as ultrasonic or steam systems. Instead, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water for cleaning. Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.

butterfly brooch
Benitoite brooch at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Photo by mliu92. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

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