Aquamarine, with its range of stunning blue hues, is a gemstone that certainly lives up to its name. Derived from the Latin phrase aqua marinus, meaning “water of the sea”, this dazzling gemstone possesses both a color and transparency that resembles the crystal clear green-blue of the world’s most stunning waters. Ranging in hues from the lightest of blues to deep cerulean, the aquamarine’s versatility and brilliant luster place it among the most popular gemstones in the world.
History and Lore
The stone has been beloved for centuries, and its pure blue hue has naturally linked the aquamarine to lore and myth surrounding the sea. It has been told that the stone was first discovered in the treasure chest of mermaids, and that the shiny baubles can still be used to lure the elusive marine beauties to the water’s surface. The ancient Greeks believed aquamarines possessed the power to calm waves and protect sailors at sea. Worn as pendants or in rings, the ancient fisherman would throw them into tumultuous waters as gifts to Poseidon with hopes of calming the storm. In Thailand, the stone is said to alleviate seasickness – and can even save one from drowning.
Its legendary association with water also led the ancients to believe that an aquamarine was strongest when submerged. If its powers began to deteriorate, one had only to leave the stone in water overnight to restore its potency. This water was also presumed to gain power from the gemstone; it was used to treat a variety of ailments, from the mouth and throat to the stomach and heart.
Beyond its relation to the sea, the aquamarine is thought to soothe the temper with its serene color, and also to strengthen relationships. These notions persist today, and the stone is frequently associated with tranquility, clarity, harmony and friendship. And, as the official birthstone of March, it is naturally linked with Spring – a season of transformation and rebirth.
A variety of the mineral beryl, the aquamarine is the most famous relative of the emerald, along with morganite, golden beryl, and others. Like all beryl, aquamarine relies on the presence of a metallic element to obtain its distinctive hue. Iron transforms pure beryl into aquamarine, while emeralds require a slightly more complex cocktail of chromium, iron and vanadium.
As is common in most gemstones, aquamarines form in a range of hues, from the lightest of pale blues down the spectrum to deeper shades. Among the most popular of these is the intense, bright blue of Santa Maria aquamarines. Named for the Brazilian Santa Maria de Itabira gem mines where they are most often found, these rare aquamarines are highly coveted.
Brazil remains the chief source of the world’s finest aquamarines. In addition to the “Santa Maria” variety, the popular “Martha Rocha” and “Espirito Santo” types of aquamarine also originate in this South American country. Monumental aquamarine crystals have also been found in Brazil, including the largest gem-quality aquamarine ever discovered. Weighing over 110 kilos, this colossal stone unearthed in 1910 measured 19 inches in length and 15 inches in diameter.
Aquamarines are also found in Africa in abundance, particularly in Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Madagascar aquamarines are particularly coveted; known as “Madagascar Aqua”, they possess a vivid medium blue hue.
Given their extraordinary range of color, as well as their natural transparency and luster, it is no surprise that the aquamarine is a favorite among jewelers. The gemstone has made an appearance in creations for royalty and celebrities alike, and has been seen in important jewelry collections for over a century.
The Dom Pedro Aquamarine is perhaps the most legendary. Weighing a remarkable 10,395 carats, the aquamarine obelisk by gem sculptor Bernd Munsteiner is the world’s largest cut aquamarine, and is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Other renowned aquamarines included the center stone in Queen Elizabeth’s aquamarine tiara, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1,847-carat aquamarine gifted to her in 1935 by the Brazilian government.
A Truly Versatile Stone
With a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs Scale, the aquamarine is a durable gemstone that is largely protected from scratches by its hardness. Large stones are relatively common, allowing jewelry designers to experiment with innovative shapes and cuts. This makes it a favored stone among jewelers, and it is frequently found in creations by Tiffany & Co., Verdura, Cartier and others. Considering its range in both size and hue, it also boasts a wide price range that makes it available to nearly everyone.