AT A GLANCE
Green or Blue
7.5 - 8 Mohs Scale
LEGEND & MYTH
The name "aquamarine" comes from the Latin for "ocean" and "water", referring to its blue colour. It's the gem for the star sign of Pisces. In ancient times, aquamarine was said to calm waves.
Sailors also wore aquamarine amulets to ward off the treacherous calls of mythical sea sirens. People would bathe aquamarine in seawater, believing this enhanced its magical properties.
Aquamarine has been used in jewellery since the beginning of recorded history. Today it remains an ever popular accessory because of its beautiful, glimmering blue colour.
Princess Diana famously wore a large aquamarine ring during her visit to Sydney, Australia. The stone was emerald cut, flanked by diamonds and set in yellow gold. The Princess had commissioned the ring herself and would often wear it together with a diamond bracelet.
The aquamarine derives from the mineral beryl, like emeralds.
Its colour varies from pale blue or turquoise to deep blue, depending on the amount of iron present in the crystal.
On the Mohs scale of hardness aquamarine rates 7.5 - 8.
The word “aquamarine” comes from the Latin words “aqua” and “mare”, meaning “water” and “sea”.
WHERE ON EARTH?
Brazil is the source of the finest aquamarines in the world.
The gem mines in the states of Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo and Bahia produce vibrantly coloured, pure blue beryl. The Brazilian government applies measures to protect indigenous people and the environment from exploitative mechanised mining.
Gem production in the country is conflict free.
BIRTHSTONE & ANNIVERSARY
Aquamarine is the birthstone for March. It is said to encourage understanding between people, give its wearer courage and inspire creativity. Traditionally the aquamarine is gifted on 19th wedding anniversaries. Its clear blue colour makes it a very desirable and popular gift.
In the late 80's, miners in the Pedra Azul gem mine in Brazil found an enormous aquamarine crystal. A gem sculptor called Bernd Munsteiner bought it. He studied the enormous crystal for six months and then faceted it into a magnificent 10,363-carat obelisk. Named the "Dom Pedro" aquamarine, it's now on display at the Smithsonian National Gem Collection Gallery in Washington DC, USA. See the finished sculpture in the video at the bottom of the page.
AQUAMARINE STYLE TIPS
The aquamarine's brilliant blue-green colour combines beautifully with diamonds. It also works well with both yellow and white gold. While aquamarine is popular with people who have blue eyes – it's said to enhance their colour – it's actually one of the rare gems that suits any complexion.
Princess Diana was known for her beautiful aquamarine and diamond jewellery set.
How to assess
quality and value?
Our gemmologist recommends selecting aquamarines based on their combined clarity, colour and cut.
A fine aquamarine is a perfect fusion of glass-like clarity, beautiful colour and a cut that enhances both.
As opposed to emeralds, aquamarines can most often be expected to appear naturally pure and transparent.
Aquamarines can range from pale blue or greenish blue to strong green-blues or deep blues. The green-blue or turquoise colour occurs most abundantly in nature. Generally speaking the bluer hues are considered more valuable, but as aquamarine is most famous for its turquoise colour, this is what most consumers seek.
Aquamarines can be cut into various shapes. Gem cutters tend to favour emerald cuts as they bring out the gem's natural colour and sparkle. Round and oval cuts are also popular, and the aquamarine lends itself well to pear, heart and designer shapes too. The gem's transparency and availability in large sizes have made it a favourite amongst gemstone artists and sculptors who use it to fashion ornaments and statues.
Most aquamarines sold as jewellery are eye-clean. Some crystals can contain liquid inclusions that look like tiny bubbles, but these are usually not detectable without a jeweller's loupe. Cloudy aquamarine is not accepted in jewellery – there is an expectation of purity and sparkling transparency.
High quality aquamarine is more expensive than blue topaz, but not as dear as emeralds. The gemstone's crystal sizes can vary from tiny to enormous and some of the biggest examples weigh up to 45 kilograms. Very large stones are hard to use in jewellery, however, so aquamarine prices can actually decrease from 25 carats onwards.
NATURAL OR TREATED?
Aquamarine doesn't usually need to be treated in any way. An expert cut and polish are normally all this gem needs. Consumers should note that the pale green-blue variety of aquamarine is the most affordable, with deep blue gems fetching higher prices.
Any aquamarine that is very intensely blue but sold at a cheap price is probably heat treated or not aquamarine at all. Always buy yours from a reputable jeweller.
CARE AND CLEANING
Aquamarine is relatively hard and therefore a good gem for daily wear, although you should avoid knocking it hard.
Store it separately, away from harder gems like diamonds which can scratch it. Washing it in warm soapy water is usually the safest and cheapest way to clean it.