Aquamarine Gemstones: Jewels of the Sea
It is found all over the world, though particularly in Brazil, in large quantities (for a gemstone) and in all sizes and qualities. This makes the aquamarine gemstone an affordable gemstone and for this reason very popular.
Not just the price makes it a popular gemstone, its unique soft blue color has elevated its status as well. To see just how beautiful these gemstones can be just take a look at the aquamarine video at the bottom of this page.
What is Aquamarine?
Aquamarines are a gem quality variant of beryl. Known and prized for its striking blue-green colours it’s no wonder it was once believed they were a treasure of mermaids.
Even the word itself links back to the sea: aqua marina in Latin means ‘water of the sea’.
Aquamarine stones are currently in the favor of designers all over the world, because the blue gemstone complements almost any type of skin and outfit. They can be found in large quantities and in all sizes making it easy to find the right stone to make their next masterpiece.
Aquamarine is a fairly common variant of beryl. Almost all mines that produce normal colorless beryl also produce at least a small quantities of aquamarine.
There are mining operations in the US, Brazil and Sri Lanka. Many other gem producing countries such as Madagascar and Tanzania also produce small amounts of aquamarine crystals.
The biggest aquamarine that was ever found weighed an astonishing 110 kg and had a diameter of 42 cm and was over 48 cm long! It was found in Brazil in 1910. The largest cut aquamarine is known as the Dom Pedro and weighs in at almost 25 kg and is displayed in museums all over the world.
Aquamarine is the modern birthstone of March.
Iron (Fe2+) is the cause of the blue aquamarine color, which can be surprising as iron is usually associated with brown or yellow tones. When both Fe2+ and Fe3+ iron ions are present in the crystal the color changes to dark blue. This type of aquamarine is called maxixe, not to be confused with the Brazilian dance.
Because it is a variant of beryl it is an excellent gemstone. It has a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on Mohs hardness scale. Due to its (virtual) lack of cleavage it is very hard to chip which together with its hardness makes it possible to wear it every day.
Because this precious gemstone was associated with water legend has it that sailors wore pieces of an aquamarine stone to keep them safe. Later during the Middle Ages it was widely known as a healing stone that could help against poisoning and when worn by a woman it promised a good marriage. Even today there are cultures where aquamarines are symbols of health and youth.
Aquamarines are used in gemstone therapy and prized for its healing properties in some circles. But other than its use as a gemstone there are no other known industrial uses.
How to Take Care of Your Aquamarine Gemstones
Aquamarines are excellent gemstones and are fairly easy to care for, still there are some things you should keep in mind when dealing with them. The tips below should help you enjoy your loose gemstones or jewelry even more:
- It’s best to clean it with warm water, soap and a soft brush (certainly not a metallic brush, using one could mean a trip to your local jeweler). Be sure to dry it with a soft cloth afterwards and let it air for a few minutes before storing it.
- A jewelry steam cleaner or an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner should be avoided, unless the person you bought it from specifically states it is safe.
- First put on your makeup, hairspray, deodorant, perfume and such. Only after that put on your aquamarine jewelry. This is because frequent use of these products can leave a residue of chemicals on the stone and aquamarines can react poorly to some of them.
- Keep it away from high temperatures, such as a fireplace, oven or when cooking. High temperatures can change the color of the stone and not in a good way.
- Some sources claim aquamarines should be kept out of direct sunlight. This is not true, aquamarines have a very stable color. A close relative, maxixe beryl, does fade under sunlight, but not aquamarines themselves.
Aquamarine Buying Guide: How to Buy Aquamarines
Aquamarines are found all over the world in good quantities, large sizes and good quality. Which makes them a very affordable gemstone.
Their excellent gemstone properties make them very suitable for jewelry and their unique color makes it even more attractive.
Many things are important when buying aquamarine, this aquamarine buying guide should help clear up what you should be looking for and what you should be wary of.
Enhancements, imitations and synthetics
Almost every aquamarine that can be found on the market today has been heat treated to improve or change its color. Because this treatment is permanent it is generally accepted in the gemstone trade. It increases the supply of high quality aquamarine, which in turn lowers the price you’ll be paying.
Be wary however when a seller claims to be selling untreated stones. When their prices are the same as those of treated stones you can be sure he is either lying or simply not aware they are treated. In either case you should leave and buy your gemstones or jewelry elsewhere.
Make sure that you are not buying a treated blue topaz or another blue gemstone. To the untrained eye it can look quite like an aquamarine but close inspection should reveal that it is a far cheaper stone.
So either bring a friend with more knowledge if you’re not sure yourself when shopping in person. Or even better, only shop at a store with a high reputation. Reputable sellers will disclose that you’re not dealing with a (natural) aquamarine, for example it will state ‘simulated aquamarine’.
True synthetic aquamarines are not found on the market, because creating them is more expensive than simply buying a real one.
The 4 C’s of aquamarines
Color: The most important property. Faint blue aquamarines are the cheapest, blue-green is more expensive though still quite affordable. However a striking light blue color (often called sky blue) is the most prized color, not only because it looks amazing but also because it is very rare.
What color you should buy depends on your taste and budget, but the light blue variants, while cheap, are often fairly lackluster when viewed in natural light. When you are out in the sun some of them can appear nearly colorless. So in general one should go for a deeper blue-green aquamarine or a sky blue stone.
Cut: One of the most important things to look for in an aquamarine is its cut. Cut is often confused with shape, but in this case cut refers to the quality of the cutting process. A poor cut can leave the aquamarine looking dull instead of sparkly. Don’t settle for less than a good or excellent cut. If the quality of the cut is not disclosed ask the dealer about it.
Clarity: Luckily aquamarine clarity is usually very high, so you should be able to buy one with eye-clean or better clarity without breaking the bank. The only time I would buy aquamarines with less than eye-clean clarity would be when buying beads for a necklace or armband.
Carat: For most gemstones size or carat is the most important factor for its value. However, because they can be found in larger sizes this is not the case here. The price per carat for an aquamarine of 30 carats is perhaps a third higher than the price per carat of a 1 carat aquamarine.
Price of aquamarine gemstones
The price of an unheated very light blue aquamarine is around $90/carat. A light blue-green or green-blue aquamarine sells for $180-$240/carat. The prized medium to strong sky blue aquamarines sell for $550-$600/carat making it quite expensive. (source: Gemval)
The heated aquamarines that are found on the market today are light to strong greenish-blue and sell for around $180/carat. Not exactly cheap, but still far cheaper than for example alexandrite or a diamond.
Where should I buy aquamarine jewelry or gemstones?
Aquamarines are sold in a large number of places, often in a breathtaking amount of variations. Your local jeweler should have a nice selection as well, but be sure to shop around as prices can vary wildly.
Please make sure you are buying what you think you are buying. Be aware that things like ‘aquamarine CZ’, ‘simulated aquamarine’, ‘aquamarine cubic zirconia? and ‘Swarovski aquamarine’? are not real aquamarines. There is nothing wrong with buying them. As they often look amazing and are cheap. However you should be aware that you’re not buying a natural gemstone, just so you don’t have any nasty surprises later on.
As always, when in doubt contact the dealer or someone knowledgeable with your questions. If you don’t like the answers (or they don’t answer at all) look elsewhere. There are plenty of other places where you can find jewelry and gemstones.
World’s largest cut aquamarine displayed at Smithsonian.