About Aquamarine – History and Introduction
Aquamarine is a blue to green-blue variety of precious beryl. The beryl group of minerals is most famous for chromium-rich, green emerald, which happens to be one of the ‘precious four’ gems of the world (diamond, sapphire and ruby are the remaining three). Aquamarine is one of the official birthstones for those born in March. Aquamarine is exceptionally hard and has an outstanding vitreous (glass-like) luster. It is most famous for its breathtaking sea-blue colors which can range from light to dark-blue. The name ‘aquamarine’ was derived from an old Latin expression which meant ‘seawater’.
Aquamarine and emerald belong to the same family, but they are surprisingly different. Aquamarine and emerald are both beryllium aluminum silicates. While emerald is colored by trace amounts of chromium (and vanadium), aquamarine color is the result of iron impurities within colorless beryl crystal. Aquamarine and emerald have essentially the same specific gravity and refractive index, but emerald tends to be hazy and full of inclusions, whilst aquamarine has excellent transparency and clarity. Aquamarine, and other types of beryl, are quite durable and hard, ranging from 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. A dark and deeply saturated blue is the most desirable and valuable aquamarine color. Other varieties of beryl include morganite, goshenite, golden beryl (heliodor), green beryl and bixbite.
There have been huge finds of aquamarine weighing several tons that didn’t qualify for cutting due to their weak, gray or opaque color. The largest find of gemstone quality aquamarine dates back to 1910 when the “Minas Gerais” mine in Marambaya, Brazil, unearthed a stone of 243 lb (110.5 kg), 18 inches (48.5 cm) long and 15.5 inches in diameter, that was cut into many gemstones with a total weight of more than 100,000 carats.
The ‘Dom Pedro’, weighing 26 kg and cut in Idar-Oberstein, Germany in 1992 by the gemstone designer Bernd Munsteiner, is the largest single piece of aquamarine to have ever been cut.
Natural Aquamarine Gemstone
Aquamarine can typically be identified by its unique sea-blue colors. It is rather hard and has a vitreous luster. Aquamarine stones have excellent clarity and transparency compared to many other similar gems. The intensity of color and the clarity of the stone are the most important criteria when evaluating aquamarine, followed closely by quality of cut. Aquamarine is colored by trace amounts of iron and testing of composition, trace elements and its six-sided crystal structure can easily distinguish it from other blue-green stones.
Aquamarine Origin and Gemstone Sources
The leading producer of aquamarine is Brazil, with many mines spread throughout the country. Other deposits of aquamarine are sourced from Australia, Myanmar (Burma), China, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as in several U.S. locations. Karur, India recently has become one of the biggest suppliers of aquamarine.
Buying Aquamarine and Determining Aquamarine Gemstone Value
Like seawater, aquamarine can be light-blue, dark-blue, blue-green and green-blue. The more saturated the color, the higher the value, although almost all aquamarine is typically a lighter blue tone. A deeply saturated blue is the most desirable color, but it is very rare in larger specimens. The intensity of color is one of the most important criteria when evaluating colored gemstones, but unlike other gems, aquamarine is not diminished by lesser color intensity; many people actually prefer the more crystal-clear lighter gemstones over the richer, deeper colors.
Aquamarine Clarity and Luster
Aquamarines of the best quality are eye-clean, transparent gems. Some gems can carry inclusions of long, hollow rods, a trademark of the beryl family. Aligned traces of foreign minerals, a rare feature, cause a cat’s eye effect (chatoyancy) or star effect (asterism) with six rays in a vivid sheen. Cat’s eye aquamarine usually commands high prices. Six-rayed specimens with asterism or ‘star aquamarine’ is exceptionally rare and very valuable. Aquamarine has a vitreous (glass-like) luster when cut.
Aquamarine Cut and Shape
Aquamarine is available in both faceted and cabochon cuts. Beryls are particularly well-suited for rectangular or square cuts. The most favored cut for aquamarine is an emerald step-cut. Brilliant cuts with long or rectangular shapes are also very popular. Turbid and chatoyant specimens are cut en cabochon, as well as cat’s eye and star aquamarine specimens. Skilled gem cutters can facet any shape imaginable with aquamarine. The most common cuts are traditional shapes such as round, pear, oval and cushion. Fancy cuts are difficult to find in larger sizes. Aquamarine and other types of beryl are sometimes carved into ornamental figures and animal gemstone carvings.
Aquamarine gemstones are often heat-treated for color enhancement, but many are untreated. Heating at low temperatures will reduce unwanted green and yellowish tones. Darker shades of aquamarine are almost always heated, as well as lower quality stones (Usually at 725-850 F or 400-450 C) in order to enhance the color to be a favorable blue. Heating at higher temperatures would result in discoloration.
Aquamarine Gemological Properties:
|Chemical Formula:||Al2Be3Si6O18, Aluminum beryllium silicate|
|Crystal Structure:||Hexagonal, hexagonal prisms|
|Color:||Light-blue to dark-blue, blue-green|
|Hardness:||7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale|
|Refractive Index:||15.64 – 1.596|
|Density:||2.68 – 2.74|
|Transparency:||Transparent to opaque|
|Double Refraction / Birefringence:||-0.004 to -0.005|
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details on gemology-related terms.
Aquamarine: Varieties or Similar Gemstones:
Aquamarine belongs to the beryl group of minerals. There are quite a few different gemstone-quality varieties of beryl, most of which are classified based on color and coloring agents, such as green emerald. Aquamarine also occurs with chatoyancy (cat’s eye effect) and asterism (star effect), which is extremely rare and very valuable. These specimens are available as cabochon cuts. Other gems that can closely resemble aquamarine include Larimar, amazonite, tourmaline, sapphire and spinel.
Most Popular Related Gemstones:
Emerald, precious beryl, golden beryl, cat’s eye aquamarine and morganite are the most popular related gemstones.
Lesser Known Related Gemstones:
Bixbite or red beryl, heliodor, green beryl and goshenite are the lesser-known related gemstones.
Aquamarine Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers
According to legend, aquamarine originated in the treasure chest of fabulous mermaids, and has since ancient times, been regarded as ‘the sailor’s lucky stone’. Aquamarine derives its name from the Latin term for seawater and has a long tradition of being a stone for those who spend much of their time at sea. The Greeks and the Romans knew aquamarine as the sailor’s gem too, believing that it ensured a safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. Legend has it that aquamarines were the prized possessions of many mermaids and would thus protect sailors from the dangers of sea, including warding off sea-sickness.
In Antiquity, as well as in the Middle Ages people believed that the cosmos is reflected in gemstones. It is no surprise that aquamarine is assigned to the planet Neptune and is also one of March’s official birthstones. The esoteric movement revived the ancient belief and the gem industry made it another marketing tool to promote certain gems.
The healing powers of gems remains a controversial issue, but has been mentioned for centuries by healers, shamans and medicine men. Whether it’s factual or a placebo effect, it truly doesn’t matter as long as it helps people who need it. The best approach is to wear the gemstone in contact with the skin, especially close to the injured or troubled part of the body. Aquamarine is said to be of help for arthritis, eye inflammation, sore throat and varicose veins.
Aquamarine Gemstone and Jewelry Care and
Aquamarine is one of the more durable of gemstones, but it still requires careful handling and care. Avoid wearing aquamarine jewelry when working around harsh chemicals. To prevent scratches, always store aquamarine gemstones separately from other types of gemstone and gemstone jewelry.
When cleaning, you can use warm soapy water and dry aquamarine gems and jewelry using tissue or a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse your stones well to ensure all soapy residue is removed. Wrap your stones in a soft cloth when storing them for extended periods of time, or place them into a fabric-lined box.