Morganite is the pink variety of gem-quality beryl. In 1911, George F. Kunz, the famous U.S. minerologist and chairman of the New York Academy of Sciences, named it after the banker (and gem enthusiast) J.P. Morgan.
Beryl is beryllium aluminum silicate. Beryl is colorless unless certain impurities are present in the right places in the beryl crystal. However, nature keeps a dirty kitchen, and it is fairly common for more than one color-causing element to be present in the same crystal, giving rise to a mix of colors.
Pure beryl, called goshenite, is colorless. Iron (a very common element, especially in localities where manganese is also found) can cause beryl to be yellow or blue. If the two iron colorations are mixed in one crystal, a sea-green color results.
Pink morganite occurs when trace amounts of manganese substitute for some aluminum in the beryl molecules. The color tends to be pale, and color banding is common. However, if iron is also present, then its color may be modified to peach, rose-lilac, or orange. Orange and peach morganite is frequently heat-treated to make colorless the iron that lends a yellow color (as for heliodor).
The pink variety of morganite is the most valuable and thus heat treatment (undetectable) is common. The existence in a single crystal of both pink and peach/orange/yellow zones is a good assurance that the crystal has not been heat-treated. Rose/lilac coloration is not affected by heating.
Unlike kunzite, another common pink gem, pink morganite will not fade because of exposure to sunlight.
Morganite has been synthesized but the natural supply and moderate price prevent commercial-scale production of synthetic morganite.
Productive areas for morganite are Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Italy, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, the United States, and Zimbabwe.
Image courtesy of irocks.com.
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