Dallas Gem Mine, San Benito County, California, USA
Small Cabinet, 8.7 x 6.0 x 3.8 cm
Benitoite is actually a rare titanium species caused to show itself to collectors in the northern California mountains because of a freak flip of the bottom end of a crustal plate, from the mantle contact to the surface. I am told the deposit is totally unique - and certainly it is the only known locale for good crystals of the species. Recently, another dealership converted the once famous hill into a shallow depression, mining out most of the core of the deposit. Specimens o good quality are ow available at reasonable prices on the market, in some abundance. However, this is not just a normal quality, nor a modern piece. Here is a very showy, palm-sized plate of intense, deep blue, pseudo-triangular benitoite crystals I recently purchased from a private collection deaccession. The crystals are naturally bright and GEMMY, not just blue. Crystals are uniformly sharp and the two largest are 2.3 and 1.9 cm tall. A sharp, eye-visible and bright brown joaquinite is a bonus association for those who care (at about .5 mm in size), in the middle of the plate. Most this size are opaque, but these crystals actually have transparent tips and translucent edges - and in fact, I was told by a gem cutting friend there are several carats of rough material in the better crystals here (including a 1 carat gem that could be obtained out of the tip of the large crystal). It is hard to emphasize more the sheer quality of the major crystals on this piece, really - they are all you could ask for in classic benitoite, now the California state gem even as the deposit is nearly exhausted. It is surely an older specimen (little of this quality in this size was found after the mid-80s). It has been some time since benitoites of any real quality were seen in abundance. Most specimens today are simply smaller, duller crystals, than the intense deep blue color I have seen in old collections. Of course there are exceptions, but the bottom line is that truly fine benitoites are a thing of the past, and few can be had today despite the veritable strip mining of the locality to go after specimens in quantity. To this end, I buy any really great one I can get ahold of, especially larger pieces: This is, for me, "investment grade mineralization" though some turn their noses up at buying certain species for investment. Nevertheless, show me another unique gem species from one locality in the world (now exhausted) that is also a state gemstone, and forms incredible sharp blue triangles! Joe Budd photos