California State Gemstone
Adoption of the California State Gemstone
Varying in color from very pale blue to deep purplish blue, the color of the finest benitoite (pronounced beh-nee-toe-ite), referred to as a cornflower blue, rivals that of fine sapphire. Indeed, upon its discovery near New Idria in 1907, it was thought to be sapphire or a new kind of "blue diamond."
Mr. James M. Couch of Coalinga, equipped with a donkey and a pick-axe had been grubstaked by oil man Roderick W. Dallas and sent off to prospect the Idria Quicksilver (Mercury) Mine area. What he stumbled upon was a cache of "blue diamonds."
After two days of wandering the hills of southern San Benito, James Couch spotted a promising outcrop of rocks.
According to David Austin in his self-published The Benitoite Story:
Stones collected by Mr. Couch were brought to jewelers for examination. Identification of the stones was uncertain and samples were brought to Professor George D. Louderback at the University of California, Berkeley.
After extensive examination, Professor Louderback declared the blue crystals a completely new mineral. He named the new substance benitoite to reflect its occurrence near the headwaters of the San Benito River in San Benito County, California.
Benitoite is particularly noteworthy because it became the first mineral to inhabit a previously theoretical mineral class and because of its beauty and rarity.
Its rarity and occurrence in California moved the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies (CFMS) to propose that it be adopted as the state's official gemstone. Thus began a four-year effort that led to the introduction of legislation in the California State Legislature and the adoption of benitoite's adoption as California's official state gemstone.
California Assembly members Lucy Killea and Rusty Areias introduced Assembly Bill No. 2404 (AB 2404) on January 18, 1984. By the end of May, the bill had been adopted in the Assembly and read and referred to the Committee on Rules in the Senate. Unfortunately, AB 2404 was defeated in the Senate on June 29 by a vote of 17 to 10.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And that's exactly what the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies did a year later.
On March 8, 1985, Assembly Bill No. 2357 (AB 2357) was introduced in the Assembly. Sponsored by Rusty Areias, this bill made it through the Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law, by Governor George Deukmejian, on October 1, 1985.
The following information was excerpted from the California Government Code, Title 1, Division 2, Chapter 2.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CODE
425.3. Benitoite is the official state gemstone.
Source: California State Legislature, California Law, , March 1, 2008.
The Mineralogical Society of Southern California: So. Calif. Chapter of the Friends of Mineralogy featuring Benitoite - The California State Gemstone.
California State Gem Mine: After 100 years, the mine is open to the public. Rock hounds, gem, and specimen hunters can find one of the rarest and most desirable gemstones in the world!.
California State Gemstone & Mineral Specimens: This website offers specimens for sale and information about benitoite and the minerals that are found at Benitoite Gem mine.
Benitoite: California State Gem: California Geological Survey, Note 11.
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