Rice Northwest Museum Benitoite Exhibit

We are pleased to announce that the Rice Museum will have a Benitoite exhibit on loan from John Veevaert. The exhibit will open to the public on June 27th, and will be at the museum until February 2013.

Benitoite is a cyclosilicate. Cyclosilicates are also known as ring silicates because the silicate components in their structure are linked together in rings. Benitoite has hexagonal symmetry, so it can form perfect dipyramidal (double pyramids) crystals.

The name benitoite comes from San Benito County in California, where the first specimen was discovered in 1907. Benitoite is most commonly sapphire blue with hints of violet, but may sometimes occur as colorless, white, pink, reddish-brown or greenish-gray crystals. Benitoite is white when powdered (white streak), and has a vitreous luster. Its hardness ranges from 6 to 6.5 on Moh’s scale. It sometimes occurs as twinned specimens. It fluoresces bright blue in short-wave ultra-violet light. This has proved to be a particularly useful property for identifying benitoite when mining. Benitoite is commonly found with neptunite and natrolite. A relatively rare mineral, benitoite has been found in California, Arkansas, Montana, Czech Republic and Japan. Gem quality benitoite is only found in California. Benioite was declared California’s State Gem in 1985.