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Beryl (heliodor variety), 3.4 x 3.3 x 2.7 cm, Minas Gerais, Southeast Region, Brazil. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
Heliodor, also known as golden beryl, is the beryl variety that receives its yellow color from Fe3+ ions. The name “heliodor” originated as a trade name for golden beryl from Rössing, Namibia but now encompasses any gem-quality, golden-yellow beryl.
Some gemological references distinguish between the terms heliodor and golden beryl, using “heliodor” strictly for beryls with a greenish yellow color and “golden beryl” for beryls with pure yellow to gold color. Other references, notably Walter Schumann, reject heliodor as a distinct variety of beryl altogether and consider heliodors as simply “weak-colored” golden beryls.
Heliodors make durable jewelry stones, whether faceted or cabbed, and also occur in sizes large enough for carving.
This 122.33-ct turtle figurine was carved from a single piece of heliodor from Ukraine by Hans Ulrich Pauly. (The eyes are black onyx wrapped in 18k gold). Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Hindman.
Green beryls are sometimes misidentified as heliodors.
Prismatic heliodor crystals may have etched faces. This results from changes in the chemical composition of the crystal’s growth medium due to overpressure during its formation.
Beryl (heliodor variety). Note the etched crystal faces. 3.7 x 2.9 x 2.9 cm, Karoi (Urungwe) District, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
Some cabbed heliodors may show chatoyancy (a “cat’s eye” effect).
Manufacturers can synthesize heliodors, and other beryl varieties, via flux and hydrothermal methods.
Treatments applied to heliodors include heating, impregnation, and dyeing.
Greenish yellow heliodors may be heated and turned into aquamarines. This is known to have happened with Ukrainian material. Better known by consumers, faceted aquamarines will generally sell for more than heliodors. However, aquamarines may also be irradiated and turned into heliodors. Reportedly, pale aquamarines from Vietnam may receive radiation treatments in Laos, only to be returned to Vietnam and sold as natural heliodors.
Some controversy surrounds so-called heliodors from Zelatoya Vada, Tajikistan. According to Dmitriy Belakovskiy, the curator of the Fersman Museum in Moscow, these heliodors, aside from their color, look like Pakistani aquamarines and Chinese beryls. Furthermore, he was unable to locate the purported source of these stones in the field. (See his chapter in Beryl and Its Color Varieties (2005) for more information). These heliodors may simply be treated aquamarines and/or colorless beryls (goshenite).
Members of the beryl family, heliodor and aquamarine both receive their color from iron impurities. These natural, bi-colored beryl crystals have blue (aquamarine) bodies and yellow (heliodor) terminations. 5.4 x 4.8 x 4.0 cm, Erongo Mountain, Usakos and Omaruru Districts, Erongo Region, Namibia. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
Significant sources of gem-quality heliodors include the following:
- Brazil: greenish yellow to fine, deep-orange colored material, much of it gemmy.
- Madagascar: gemmy crystals.
- Namibia: in pegmatites.
- Russia: gemmy crystals.
- Ukraine: gemmy crystals.
In the United States, Connecticut produces small but fine colored crystals, some gemmy. Maine and New Hampshire also produce some crystals.
- Afghanistan; Cambodia; China; Finland; India; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nigeria; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Tanzania; Zambia; Zimbabwe.
Beryl (heliodor variety), 5.0 x 4.5 x 3.5 cm, Karelia Beryl Mine pegmatite, Kannatsalo, Southern Karelia, Etela-Suomen Laani, Finland. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
Ukraine has produced rough that has yielded faceted heliodors up to 2,500 cts in weight.
Notable, sizable heliodors in museum collections include the following:
- British Museum (Natural History) (London England): 82.25 (yellow).
- Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario, Canada): 77.8 (yellow, step cut, Brazil).
- Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC): 2,054 (greenish yellow, rectangular step cut, Brazil); 133.5 (yellow, Madagascar); 43.5 (golden cat’s eye, Madagascar); 17.5 (yellow, Russia).
Heliodors free of inclusions can be cleaned using mechanical systems. Have a gemologist examine your gems first to identify any potential weaknesses. Of course, a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water will always work safely.
Consult our gemstone jewelry care guide for more recommendations.