The Definitive Guide to Aquamarine Stones November 29, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
The name aquamarine derives from the Latin root words “aqua” meaning water, and “marine” meaning of the sea.
A Brief History of the Aquamarine
The first known record of Aquamarine is dated back to second century B.C when Damigeron wrote The Virtues of Stones, a non-fiction book about the spiritual properties of fine stones. Although the book was not translated and released to the public until 1989, aquamarine has a long history of being highly desired in many cultures across the globe.
The stone occurs naturally in many countries. The folklore that many still attribute to the stone today developed during ancient times in Europe, Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel. Royalty often sought after and wore aquamarine in their crowns and around their necks, both in ancient times and present day.
Legends of the Stone
In ancient Rome, soldiers believed that carving the shape of a frog into aquamarine would reconcile enemies. Romans also believed it nurtured young love, and was a gift newlywed husbands would often give their brides on the wedding night.
In Greece, aquamarine was said to bring good fortune and safety to sailors during their voyages. People of Asia and Africa believed it to have healing powers, and developed many medicinal uses for the stone. Some examples of this include treatments for ailments in the teeth, jaw, throat, stomach, and liver.
Aquamarine eventually evolved from healing to a source of fortune telling, and was used by gypsies to predict the future. Other beliefs developed regarding the stone’s ability to relieve pain, bring victory, stimulate intellect, and reduce laziness.
Aquamarine in the Natural Environment
Aquamarine forms when magma from within the earth’s crust and pegmatite interacts at a temperature over 1,000°F. Pegmatite forms during the final stages of magma crystallization. When exposed to such high heat pegmatite begins to “sprout” what we know today as aquamarine.
The size of the new aquamarine is entirely dependent on the rate at which the pegmatite cools down. A slow cool-down period will result in a large crystal formation, while that of a quick cool-down will be smaller. The shape of the new crystal is determined by the force of the geological conditions that surround it.
Aquamarine occurs in mountainous regions around the world. Like most other gemstones, the conditions must be just right for formation to occur. The two most common places that aquamarine is found are Brazil and Pakistan. In fact, the largest piece of aquamarine was found in Brazil in the late 1980’s. It weighed in at 60 pounds and measured more than two feet in length. It is now displayed in the Smithsonian Museum.
Aquamarine has also been found in China, India, Kenya, Myanmar, Mozambique, Namibia, Russia, Siberia, Sri Lanka, the United States (Colorado and California,) and Zambia.
Physical Properties of Aquamarine
Aquamarine is in the Beryl family, a mineral that appears clear in its purest form. Several other gemstones are also Beryl, most popular being emerald and morganite. The existence of Iron is what differentiates aquamarine from the others with its vivid blue coloring. Unlike its sister, Emerald, the blue-hued stone often forms in flawless crystals with little to no flaws.
Aquamarine crystals can grow naturally in perfect hexagon crystals, prismatic crystals, short, wide crystals, tabular crystals, and flat hexagonal plates. It has a hardness of 7.5-8.0 on the Mohs scale. The Mohs scale rates gemstones from 1-10, with one being very soft, and ten being very hard.
How the Stone is Treated
Aquamarine’s color can range from almost clear to a deep, rich blue depending on the heat it is exposed to. Because it causes the color to become more vibrant, aquamarine stones are often heat treated to bring out their brightest blues.
Aquamarine in Jewelry
Aquamarine and the 4 C’s
Generally speaking, aquamarine is a hard stone with few imperfections. Just like diamonds, the four C’s are used in determining the total value of each aquamarine. When cut properly, the stone will reflect deep, vibrant blues. They are often faceted (angles cut into the crystal for optimal light reflection) to disguise any inclusions.
Stones with no green or grey undertones are considered the most desirable. Those that are clear with no inclusions inside or blemishes on the surface are also sought after. In regards to clarity, a perfect aquamarine should be translucent, with no internal or external flaws. Carat is the lesser of the four C’s in this case ,because aquamarine occurs naturally in large formations. For that reason, the cost per carat does not increase with size.
The largest aquamarine ever found, mentioned above, was 136,078 carats.
Due to aquamarine’s durability, it must be set in an equally strong metal to be long-lasting. Silver is relatively soft, while gold is more enduring and platinum the strongest jeweler’s metal. Depending on the shape of the stone, your jeweler will select the safest setting that protects your stone.
Selecting the Right Aquamarine for You
In selecting any precious stone, you must determine the elements that are most important to you. Of course, you should always consider the four C’s, but you should also evaluate your activity level, your style, and your ability to spot an imitation. The most popular cut of aquamarines is the emerald shape.
Many jewelry professionals believe square or rectangle cuts complement the stone best. Princess and pear are also preferred.
Aquamarines come in many colors, some more expensive than others. Evaluate both your budget and the hues that you like best. As mentioned previously, weight does not determine the price per carat. So, you may select a weight without worry of a significant price increase for the stone’s size.
Aquamarine is durable but will still chip or crack under substantial pressure, so evaluate your activity level before purchasing. A solution may be as simple as selecting a pendant or earrings as opposed to a ring.
Feel free to browse our collection of aquamarine engagement rings.
Spotting Imitations and Synthetics
It is important to understand the difference between a synthetic and imitation aquamarine. A synthetic stone has the same chemical make up as the naturally occurring gem, but is instead grown in a lab.
An imitation stone is made of man-made or natural elements that imitate the gem. They do not have the same chemical composition as the real thing. The most common imitation is blue glass.
Due to aquamarine’s natural clarity, you must look hard to spot the telltale signs of imitation. First, look closely at the stone. Does it have small bubbles under the surface? Are there scratches on the surface? If so, it is not a real aquamarine.
Aquamarine will never have air bubbles, and due to its hardness would likely not have surface blemishes. Another way is to assess the temperature of the stone. A natural aquamarine will always feel colder than room temperature. If you are ever unsure of your stone’s authenticity, bring it to your local jeweler, gemologist or jewelry professional.
Properly Caring for Aquamarine Stones
Caring for the durable aquamarine stone is simple. Make sure you are storing your jewelry properly. You should keep fine jewelry cool and dry in a jewelry box. Warm, damp air can tarnish the metal in which your stone is set. You must always keep your gemstones separate from each other.
Although aquamarine is hard and will not scratch easily in normal wear-and-tear, another stone of similar hardness will be able to damage it. The easiest way to take the best care of your jewelry is to follow this rule- put it on last and take it off first. Always put fine jewelry on after your morning routine and take it off before engaging in strenuous activity.
Never expose your aquamarine to chemicals of any kind, including those found in household cleaners, while gardening and in the swimming pool. You should especially avoid exposing your stone to heat.
Exposure to light is okay. However, you should avoid overexposure as this could lead to color-loss over time. Finally, make sure you follow proper cleaning techniques, explained below.
Cleaning your Aquamarine
Regular maintenance is essential to keeping all gemstones looking their best. Aquamarine can be cleaned by soaking in warm water for a few minutes, before scrubbing gently with warm soap and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Next, you will want to clean the setting of your stone.
Depending on the metal used, the process will vary. If your aquamarine is set in silver, dry it thoroughly before buffing out any tarnishing with a jeweler’s cloth. If it is set in gold or platinum, follow the same process as the gem, patting them both dry when you finish.
Be sure to ignore recommendations that suggest using household cleaning agents, such as toothpaste, vinegar, or ammonia. You should also never put your gem in an ultrasonic cleaner. The sound waves may crack the stone. Finally, schedule annual professional cleanings with your jeweler to keep your aquamarine in its best condition.
Aquamarines will always be connected to love, prosperity, and good fortune. So, have some fun, get to know the rich history of the “water of the sea” stone, and find an aquamarine that’s perfect for you.