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The Silicate Minerals


Benitoite is barium titanium silicate (BaTiSi3O9), a very rare ring silicate named for San Benito County, California, the only place it's found. (more below)
Barium titanium silicate
Photo (c) 2005 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)
Benitoite is a rare curiosity found almost exclusively in the great serpentine body of the New Idria mining district of central California. Its sapphire-blue color is unusual, but it really comes out in ultraviolet light, where it shines with a bright blue fluorescence.

Mineralogists seek out benitoite because it's the simplest of the ring silicates, with its molecular ring being composed of only three silica tetrahedra. (Beryl, the most familiar ring silicate, has a ring of six.) And its crystals are in the rare ditrigonal-bipyramidal symmetry class, their molecular arrangement displaying a triangle shape that geometrically is actually a bizarre inside-out hexagon (this is not correct technical crystallographic language, you understand).

Benitoite was discovered in 1907 and was later named the state gemstone of California. The benitoite.com site displays luscious specimens from the Benitoite Gem Mine.

Other Metamorphic Minerals

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