A Short History of the Aquamarine

Many people know that the aquamarine gemstone is the birthstone for March. It is also highly recognizable for its beautiful, clear blue color. What many people do not know is that this icy blue gem has been believed throughout the ages to possess mystical powers. Aquamarine gets its name from Latin "aqua marina" which means "sea water." It references the similarity of the gemstone’s color and clarity to that of the ocean. Decorative jewelry and protective amulets using aquamarine have been found that date back as far as 500 B.C. It has been used for its great beauty and for its powers of healing, especially the ability to calm and sooth the nerves.

The aquamarine is a semi-precious gem is a member of the beryl family, which includes emerald, and Morganite.

Aquamarine gemstones are graded using the same system as for diamonds – by color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. Rated 7.8 on the Mohs hardness scale, aquamarine is soft enough to accommodate a wide variety of gemstone cutting styles and shapes. Lapidaries continue to experiment to fine new ways of enhancing this gem. Although different shades of aquamarine have been popular at certain times in history, currently the preferred color is a lovely sky-blue. Some greenish colored aquamarines are heat treated to improve their clarity and change their color to a light blue. Heat treatment is almost impossible to detect. The changes caused by the treatment are permanent. The treatment usually adds value to the gem because of the color improvement.

While the most valuable aquamarines are mined in Columbia and Brazil, caches of the gem have been found even in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Other mines extracting gem quality material are found in Kenya, Zambia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Madagascar. The world’s largest cut aquamarine, named the Don Pedro, is exhibited at the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.


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