Benitoite on Natrolite
California Gem Mine, Santa Rita Peak, San Benito Co., California, USA
Thumbnail, 2.4 x 2.2 x 1.7 cm
Ex. Irv Brown

Benitoite, blue triangles as some people fondly call them, is a completely unique mineral that only formed good crystals in a strange, aberrant deposit that surfaces in the mountains of Northern California. Nothing else looks like these. While there are numerous small specimens, this is a competitive benitoite thumbnail specimen of the highest levels, because of the combination of size, condition, and aesthetics. It has a dominant crystal to just under 2 cm on edge, with good color and a high glassy luster. The crystal is positioned perfectly on and in balance to the contrasting matrix, and is just the right size overall to be a full-sized thumbnail, not too big nor too small. An accenting cluster of smaller, but glassier crystals at the base of the large triangle, complement and accentuates the vertical nature of that large crystal. Notably, the matrix under the benitoite is a good, thick crust of white natrolite, which is all too often burned away in preparation - and this small distinction is super important because it takes the piece to another degree of refinement compared to most others that survive being found and excavated using acid to remove the natrolite and expose the benitoite. This work is slow, painstaking, and difficult without knowing what is inside. Irv did it carefully over months, using a qtip and acid to expose the crystal without losing the white matrix association to contrast with the blue. Even when care is used, this is difficult, which is why so many benitoite specimens are on barren rock, instead of on white. Lastly, it is complete all around and pristine. This is a significant specimen, worthy of top competitive thumbnail collections. Although the deposit still exists, there is less and less chance of major finds there over the years and it has been largely depleted by past mining. Specimens like this are old, usually decades and more. This is from the thumbnail collection of Irv Brown, which was quietly sold off in 2019, when we obtained this ourselves.