Aquamarine, the dazzling sea-blue gemstone, gets its name from the Latin word aqua marinus, which means "water of the sea". It is a member of the beryl mineral family. The presence of iron during its formation causes the stone to develop a distinctive hue. An aquamarine’s color ranges from pale blue to blue-green or teal. Those with a dark and deeply saturated blue tone are considered to be the most valuable and coveted ones.
Brazil is the leading source of aquamarine with mines spread all across the country. This clear blue crystal is also mined in Australia, Myanmar (Burma), China, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as USA. The largest documented aquamarine was found in 1910 in Brazil, which weighed around 244 pounds. The largest cut aquamarine in the world is the Dom Pedro aquamarine that weighs 10,363 carats and is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Aquamarines are more frequently available in nature than emeralds, which also belong to the beryl family. But unlike emeralds, an aquamarine is almost free from inclusions. It is a hard gemstone, making it a good option for frequently worn jewelry like rings; though earrings and pendants best display its scintillating color and clarity.
The pleasant yet majestic aquamarine is associated with courage, loyalty and friendship. It is believed to promote calmness and peace in stressful situations. This pastel blue gem is the birthstone for those born in the month of March and is also the anniversary gemstone for the 19th anniversary.
According to ancient lore, aquamarine was said to be found in the treasure chests of mermaids and was used by sailors as a talisman to ensure safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. In the Middle Ages, it was recognized as an antidote for poison. Additionally, the aquamarine was also believed to bring victory in battle and legal disputes.
In ancient times, carrying this gemstone was supposed to guarantee a happy marriage. The stone was also believed to reawaken the love between estranged couples.
Egyptians and Sumerians hailed aquamarine as a powerful symbol of happiness and provider of everlasting youth. Archaeologists have discovered aquamarine in many Egyptian tombs and burial pits. According to legends, this gemstone would strengthen the wearer and expose deceit or betrayal. It was supposed to have powers that would reveal the true face of the wearer by changing color. The stone when light and pale would reflect honesty, while a dark hue would represent anger or evil intentions.
Hardness & Strength
Aquamarines have a glass-like luster and are considerably hard and durable. This gem has been rated 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which makes it ideal for everyday wear. Aquamarine is a wonderful center stone option for all kinds of jewelry. However, this gemstone is not completely immune to damage and can develop cracks on hard impact.
In its natural state, an aquamarine is usually light blue and greenish-blue in color. In order to remove the green hue, this gemstone is often exposed to extremely high temperatures (approximately 400 degrees Celsius) in a controlled environment. This heat treatment causes the aquamarine to change its physical properties and permanently turn to a more valuable pure blue color. However, in comparison to a treated stone, a natural aquamarine with a bright blue color will always fetch a higher price.
Quality & Grading
Aquamarine is one of the most popular semi-precious stones in the world. Commercially, it competes with blue topaz as they both share similar color and characteristics. However, in terms of price, an aquamarine costs relatively higher. The below-mentioned factors help determine an aquamarine’s true value.
Just like sea water, this gemstone’s color ranges in shades of green-blue, pastel blue and greenish blue. Gems with a darker shade and significant intensity are more expensive than the paler, softer blues versions as those are commonly available. Most of the dark colored aquamarines found in the market are heat treated for a richer, more intense color. Untreated sea-blue aquamarines are highly sought-after due to their rarity.
An aquamarine of the best quality is clear, transparent and eye-clean, which means it does not have inclusions visible to the naked eye. Some stones may carry liquid inclusions, while some have long, hollow, rod-like inclusions that are common in gems of the beryl family. Aligned traces of parallel inclusions sometimes cause a cat's eye or star-like effect, which are very rare in this crystal. In most cases, the inclusions in the finished gem are negligible or absent. The stones that are largely included are often carved into cabochons.
This gorgeous, pastel blue gemstone can be cut into almost any shape. Aquamarines, however, most commonly come in emerald cuts or in an oval shape. The rough gems are available in plenty and in large sizes, therefore well-cut aquamarines are also found in abundance. Its hardness and enticing color have together made it extremely popular among designers and sculptors who use this gemstone for the creation of ornamental objects and one-of-a-kind fancy cuts.
This gemstone is available in a variety of sizes; from very small to extremely large. Large stones, especially, are available in abundance but their use in jewelry pieces is a challenge unless utilized as center stones. Due to low demand, large aquamarine stones that weigh more than 25 carats have less value.
Based on its properties, an aquamarine can be classified into the following categories of quality:
This category comprises of the top 1% of extremely rare aquamarines. These stones exhibit very high brilliance and are eye-clean, which means they have no visible inclusions. The truly exceptional, medium sea blue color radiated by an heirloom-quality aquamarine differentiates it from the others.
Top 10% of all naturally available aquamarines belong to this category. Eye-clean and brilliant, these gemstones display a medium sea blue color.
This category includes the top 33% of available aquamarines. They are light sea blue in color and have slight inclusions.
Very light sea blue in color, this category comprises of the top 75% of available aquamarines and have slight to moderate inclusions.
Aquamarine is a durable gemstone, but it still requires care and maintenance. Everyday wear can cause accumulation of dirt, and will also reduce its luster and brilliance. The below-mentioned tips will help you keep your aquamarines as good as brand new.
As a golden rule, keep aside your aquamarine jewelry while performing household chores or strenuous physical activities.
To prevent scratches, always store the jewelry in individual pouches.
Avoid exposing your aquamarine jewelry to chemicals like ammonia, chlorine, etc. Direct contact with such chemicals can harm the gemstone or its metal setting.
Clean your aquamarine jewelry with warm soapy water and a soft bristle brush. Rinse it off well with plain water. Use warm water and not hot water to reduce chances of a thermal shock.
Wrap it up in a piece of cloth or place it in a fabric-lined box for long durations of storage.
It is also advisable to place your aquamarine jewelry in a dark area, as continued exposure to direct sunlight or other harsh light may change the color of the gem.