Aquamarine: The Sailor’s Gem

March’s Birthstone:  Aquamarine

An aquamarine crystal in its natural state shows why these specimens are prized for their beauty, Courtesy Daniel Trinchillo, Fine Minerals International

Aquamarine’s name comes from the Latin for seawater and it was said to calm waves and keep sailors safe at sea. March’s birthstone was also thought to enhance the happiness of marriages. The best gems combine high clarity with limpid transparency and blue to slightly greenish blue hues. Like many beryls, aquamarine forms large crystals suitable for sizable fashioned gems and carvings.

Aquamarine is a valued gem of ancient lineage. In the 19th century, sea green varieties of the stone were the most popular, but today, the more blue the color, the more valuable the stone. In 1910, the largest ever aquamarine was found in Brazil, weighing 243 pounds. It was then cut into smaller stones, yielding over 200,000 carats.

Aquamarine, 20.83 cts, Africa

Myths and Legends About The Aquamarine

A frog carved on an aquamarine served to reconcile enemies.

The Romans believed that if the figure of a frog were carved on an aquamarine, it served to reconcile enemies and make them friends.

Another Roman legend stated that the stone absorbs the atmosphere of young love: “When blessed and worn, it joins in love, and does great things.” Aquamarine was considered the most appropriate morning gift to give to a bride by her groom following the consummation of their marriage.

The Greeks and the Romans knew the aquamarine as the sailor’s gem, ensuring the safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. In Medieval times, the stone was thought to reawaken the love of married couples. It was also believed to render soldiers invincible.

Egyptian and Hebrews admired and valued aquamarine as a symbol of happiness and everlasting youth. In Europe, Aquamarine was believed to be an antidote against poison. Poisonings of royalty were common at the time, so the gem was in popular demand.

Writers of the middle Ages claimed aquamarine was the most popular and effective of the “oracle” crystals.  Many methods of using the stone as a divining tool can be found in ancient literature.

Physical Properties of Aquamarine & Where It’s Found

Aquamarine refers to beryl that is pale blue, light blue-green, or even light green. It is usually clear, but iron content gives it its blue/green color. Depending on which angle you look at an aquamarine, it may look blue, green, or colorless. This is called a pleachroic effect.  Most aquamarines are now heat treated to enhance the color, which causes the blue color to emerge and the yellow/green tones to disappear. The light color tone of the aquamarine complements all precious metals.  Many aquamarine stones are virtually free of inclusions.

Virtually Inclusion Free

The best quality stones are from Brazil, where crystals weighing several kilos have been found. Other places aquamarine is found are the Soviet Union, Madagascar (where a dark blue variety is found), the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

90.55 carat Aquamarine

Aquamarine is a relatively easy stone to cut and is often found in innovative shapes, as cutters experiment with new forms. The most common cut for an aquamarine is the emerald type, followed by oval or pear shaped cuts. It rates a 7.5 to 8 on the hardness scale, making it quite a durable stone to wear. Large aquamarine stones, ranging from several carats to more than ten carats are relatively common.

Stay tuned for more on Aquamarine – a deeper look at quality factors, and more on the healing properties that many believe Aquamarine can offer in future posts!

Sources:  GIA, American Gem Society

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