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White Beryl or Goshenite
Looking for a fine white or colorless natural gemstone, but don't want to pay the high price for a small diamond? There are a number of choices in fine white precious and semi-precious gemstones, including some lesser known gems.
The hardest of the alternative white gemstones is sapphire, with a rating of 9 on the Mohs scale. The next hardest is white beryl with a rating of 7.5 to 8.0. Though white sapphire can be quite expensive -- though not nearly as expensive as diamond -- white beryl is very affordable, even in larger sizes.
White beryl is also known as goshenite, after Goshen, Massachusetts where it was first discovered. Goshenite tends to be found to some degree in almost all locations where beryl is mined. In the past, goshenite was used for manufacturing eyeglasses and optical lenses owing to its excellent transparency. Now high quality goshenite is mainly used as a gemstone with the lower quality material used as a source for commercial beryllium.
Goshenite belongs to the beryl family, which includes emerald, aquamarine, morganite and golden beryl. All the beryls are aluminum beryllium cyclosilicates by chemical composition, and the various colors are due to the presence of trace elements such as chromium (emerald), iron (aquamarine and golden beryl) and manganese (morganite). Pure beryl is colorless.
Where some of the colored beryls are treated or enhanced
-- emerald is usually fracture-filled and aquamarine is often heated -- goshenite is always completely untreated. It is beryl in its most natural form.
You will find goshenite cut in a wide variety of shapes, from ovals and rounds to trillions, pears and marquises. Since goshenite is relatively plentiful, the material cut as gems is usually very clean and transparent. Since beryl does not have a particularly high refractive index, goshenite is often fashioned in a fancy cut, such as portuguese cut, checkerboard cut or radiant cut. These cuts are designed to maximize goshenite's brilliance and fire.