Pure beryl is colourless, but it often contains impurities which give it colour. These range from green and blue through yellow to red, and white. The name is derived from the Greek word beryllos for the beautiful blue-green colour of sea water.

Several sought after stones are types of beryl: emerald is green beryl, aquamarine is blue beryl and morganite is pink beryl. Other types of beryl include bixbite (red beryl), goshenite (white beryl) and heliodor (yellow-green).

Beryl is found most commonly in granite rock, but also occurs in mica stores in the Ural Mountains. Beryl is found in certain European countries such as Austria, Germany, and Ireland. It also occurs in Madagascar (especially morganite). The pegmatites (a type of coarse-grained igneous rock) of New England have produced some of the largest beryls ever found, including one massive crystal with dimensions 5.5 m by 1.2 m (18 ft by 4 ft), weighing around 18 metric tons.

Beryl was used for scrying by Druids, while the Scottish called them “stones of power”.

The earliest crystal balls were made from beryl, later being replaced by rock crystal.