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Golden Beryl

Golden Beryl

Test your gem marketing skills by solving this problem based on actual history:

It’s somewhere around 1913. You work for a German mining company that has just discovered a fat pocket of stunning golden beryl (the same family to which emerald and aquamarine belong) in South West Africa (now Namibia). The problem posed by the new find is this: How do you arouse public interest in a very obscure, albeit beautiful stone?

Well, first you give it a name that suggests the gem possesses a quintessential yellow color. That name: “heliodor,” a Greek-derived word that means, in effect, “sun-stroked.”

Once you’ve got a jazzy name for your beryl, you then set out to capture worldwide publicity for the gem. So you commission a well-known artist—in this case, Lucas von Cranach—to design a heliodor jewelry ensemble and present it to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and his wife in 1914. Voilà, instant headlines everywhere.
But now you’ve got to keep the momentum going for your heliodor-brand golden beryl without allowing interloper stones from other deposits to benefit. What do you do? In this case, you claim your company’s beryls are blessed with unique gemological properties (even though they aren’t) that set them apart from species members found in Brazil and Mozambique. Among other things, you spread the word that heliodor phosphoresces blue when zapped with cathode rays, changes color like alexandrite between daylight and artificial light and is even a touch radioactive.

The end result of all your marketing efforts is this. In no time at all, heliodor is the talk of the whole gem world, briefly popular in a way it has never been before or, alas, after—and, modern admirers fear, may never be again. “It’s difficult enough to excite people about yellow gems in general, let alone golden beryl in particular,” one dealer moans. “Earth tones would have to catch on in a big way.”

Gold Standard

Even if earth tones were to catch on, golden beryl would probably struggle for a piece of the action in yellow and golden gems that would result. There are a lot of reasons why the going would be rough for this gem.

At present, most golden beryl, or “heliodor” if you will, is found in Brazil, a country whose beryls are probably better known for their quantity than quality. What ails run-of-the-mill Brazilian golden beryls? One dealer describes the color as “an uninspiring legal-pad yellow.” She means that its yellow tilts ever so slightly to green, a trait that prevents this beryl from faring well in side-by-side comparisons with another far-better-known Brazilian yellow gem, citrine.

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Golden Beryl
Golden Beryl