Wednesday, September 30, 2009

October 2009 Mineral of the Month


Benitoite was first described in 1907 by George D. Louderback, who named it benitoite. "as it occurs near the head waters of the San Benito River in San Benito County, California." It is the California State gemstone.

Benitoite is a rare blue barium titanium silicate mineral found in hydrothermally altered serpentinite and also in schists. Benitoite fluoresces under short wave ultraviolet light, appearing light blue in color.

Benitoite is a member of the silicates group. It comes in at a 6-6-1/2 on the Mohs Scale. It has a conchoidal to uneven fracture and an indistinct cleavage. It has a trigonal/hexagonal crystal system with a vitreous luster. Benitoite is typically blue, purple, pink, white, colorless and often multicolored. The stone is transparent to translucent with a colorless streak. Its chemical composition is BaT1Si3O9.

Benitoite is typically found with some combination of natrolite, joaquinite and neptunite on a greenish-gray serpentinite base.

Benitoites' main uses are as collectors' specimens, especially in specimens which show off its commonly associated minerals. Benitoites' hardness also makes it suitable for use as a gemstone, though the general lack of suitable material has limited this use.