The second in a series of articles brought to you by Aussie Sapphire features Aquamarine, the blue variety of Beryl. Aquamarine is named for the latin phrase “water of the sea” after the typical blue-green colour of the ocean.
Gemmological matters: The mineral Beryl (Be3 Al2 Si6) comes in a variety of colours. While beryl is famous for the green variety of emerald, the blue variety of aquamarine is particularly beautiful and sought after. Ranging from very light pastel blue, blue-green to a deep sky blue, aquamarine derives its colour from variable trace amounts of iron. Aquamarine is 7.5 – 8.0 on the Moh’s scale of hardness meaning it is quite acceptable for most forms of jewellery although care should be taken to prevent from knocks to the stone. Cleavage is indistinct (unlike topaz which has perfect cleavage and so may split if handled carelessly). Unlike emerald, aquamarine is usually very clean with few inclusions and may be found in very large sizes.
Mythology and lore: Aquamarine is the birthstone for March birthstone and is associated with the zodiac sign of Scorpio. Aquamarine is suggested as a gem to give on the 16th and 19th wedding anniversaries. Legend says that aquamarine originated from the treasure chests of the mermaids and since ancient times, sailors carried this gem to keep them safe at sea and prevent seasickness. Aquamarine also protects against the wiles of the devil. Aquamarine has been said to exert a soothing influence, particularly on married couples. Its power to help husbands and wives work out their differences and ensure a long and happy marriage makes it a good anniversary gift. While aquamarine may not guarantee a happy marriage, long life and riches as legend suggests, giving one as a gift to a loved one certainly cant hurt.
Alternatives in blue: The most common alternative to aquamarine is blue topaz. This gemstone is quite similar to aquamarine but buyers should be aware that almost all commercially available blue topaz has been treated with radiation to create the blue colour. All major producing countries have strict guidelines in place to govern the use of radiation for gemstone treatments and cool down periods are monitored carefully so that unsafe gems do not reach the market. However, it is for buyers to make the decision whether they are prepared to wear a gemstone that has been altered in this way. Other alternatives include blue zircon (also heat treated), blue spinel and some varieties of sapphire.Since the price of aquamarine is higher for the deeper and purer colours of blue, many commercially available cut gems have been heat treated to reduce the green component of the traditional aquamarine colour. However, many sources of rough stone (including Aussie Sapphire) sell untreated stone so it is possible to purchase a totally natural gem if you are willing to search in the right place. The highest priced material is the “Santa Maria” aquamarine from this area in Brazil – this name has become synomymous with the deeper intense blue colour and may be used to indicate a colour. Some similarly coloured stone from Africa may indicate depth of colour by using the name “Santa Maria Afrique” type – see picture below of some rough of this type from Nigeria.
Some links of interest about the Aquamarine gemstone:
International Colored Gemstone Association article
Mineral and Gemstone Kingdom information guide
Bernadine Fine Art Jewelry – Gemstone information
University of Texas Gem Notes – Beryl
For those interested in buying rough aquamarine, Aussie Sapphire has a range of gems available – see our Other Gems catalogue for more information on what is available. We are expecting another shipment next month with some excellent Santa Maria Afrique aquamarine (great blue colour from Nigeria) – very sought after so dont miss out on this great product.
Here is an example of a good blue aquamarine over 50 carats in size available from our online shop – great!
Hope you enjoyed reading this article – please check back soon for more news and articles from Aussie Sapphire. As always, please feel free to contribute your comments and suggestions anywhere throughout the blog.
Cheers from Aussie Sapphire