Chrysoberyl is actually the name of a mineral as well as three different gem varieties--two of which are widely accepted as the most rare and valuable of all phenomenal gems. The gem commonly known as simply chrysoberyl is a yellowish-green, brownish-yellow, or colorless transparent to translucent mineral. They are usually faceted and are generally considered collector's stones, not often set in jewelry, though their characteristics make them ideal for use in jewelry. When chrysoberyl displays color-change properties, it is known as alexandrite, and when it exhibits chatoyancy, it is known as cat's-eye.
|Chrysoberyl cat's-eyes are best cleaned with warm soapy water, though ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe options. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are usually safe for transparent chrysoberyl but should be avoided if the stone has fractures. As always, warm soapy water is safe for cleaning chrysoberyl jewelry and gems. Chrysoberyl is a hard, tough, and durable stone, ideal for jewelry that is worn daily--even in rings.|
|Not including the transparent gem variety of chrysoberyl known as alexandrite, chrysoberyl occurs in golden yellow, greenish-yellow, green, brownish or yellowish-brown, and sometimes (rarely) light blue hues. For information about alexandrite, see the gemstones 101: alexandrite page. |
|Bright yellow and yellowish-green chrysoberyl is considered the most valuable. As with most colored gems, the stones with the most intense, rich colors are most valued. For cat's-eye chrysoberyl, the eye line should be sharp, centered, oriented from top to bottom, and very bright. Among the cat's-eyes, the infamous milk-and-honey effect is the most desired, in which the side of the stone nearest the light keeps the stone's original bodycolor--ideally brownish-yellow--and the other side looks milky yellowish green. If the dividing line in between should have a slightly bluish tint, even better.|
Name Origin and Meaning
The name "chrysoberyl" comes from the Greek words chrysos, meaning "golden," and beryllos, meaning "gem crystal." Though their names are similar, chrysoberyl and beryl are almost entirely unrelated gemstones. In Victorian times, chrysoberyl was known as chrysolite, a name that carries on in literature today. When chrysoberyl exhibits color-change phenomena, it is then classified as alexandrite, and when it features a cat's-eye effect, it's known as cat's-eye chrysoberyl or just cat's-eye, as chrysoberyl cat's-eyes are generally accepted as the best of all chatoyant gems. Cat's-eye chrysoberyl is also known as cymophane, from the Greek words cyma meaning "wave" and phane meaning "appearance." The word "chatoyancy" is derived from the French words chat meaning "cat" and oeil meaning "eye."
While other gemstones can be chatoyant, chrysoberyl is the only cat's-eye gem that can be called cat's-eye alone. So if you see the name cat's-eye used alone, it should always be referring to cat's-eye chrysoberyl. For other chatoyant gems, the name of the gem should also be included, like cat's-eye aquamarine or cat's-eye tourmaline. Cymophane (pronounced SIGH-mah-fane) is a term once used to refer to chatoyant chrysoberyl. The name has fallen into obscurity for the most part but is still sometimes used to identify chrysoberyl with inclusions that display a broad glowing sheen instead of a sharp, narrow cat's-eye effect.
Discovery and History
Chrysoberyl was first described and named by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1790, a year after it was first discovered. While it was most popular in Victorian-era jewelry, a relatively recent discovery in Orissa, India, has helped chrysoberyl regain some popularity today.
Phenomenon: Chatoyancy and Rare Asterism
Possibly because of it's golden color, or perhaps because fine cat's-eye chrysoberyl is so rare and expensive, it has always been symbolic of wealth.