Aquamarine is emerald's most famous sister. It is simply a different color variety of the mineral beryl. Greenish-blue to bluish-green beryl is called aquamarine. The advances of modern technology have made it possible, and very common, for aquamarine to be heat-treated to drive the green out of the stone and leave a more pleasing blue. This is a permanent treatment and has become accepted in the jewelry industry.
Aquamarine has been credited with providing courage, curing laziness and quickening the intellect. In the Middle Ages it was believed to give the wearer both insight and foresight and freedom from insomnia. Among various peoples, it had the reputation of providing happiness and everlasting youth. Water in which an aquamarine had been soaked was believed to cure eye troubles, stoppage of breath and hiccups.
Sources of the Sparkle
Madagascar is the historical source of aquamarine, but is no longer important. A medium dark blue is the color typical of stones that came from that area. Brazil is probably the most prolific supplier of aquamarine today. The natural color of Brazilian gems leans toward bluish-green.
Other sources of aquamarine are the African countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria, the island of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Russia.
Many huge aquamarine crystals have been found. The largest crystal known was found in Brazil in 1920. It was 19 inches long, 16 inches wide and weighed 243 pounds. It was cut into a number of important gemstones. A 13-pound uncut piece of the green outer portion of the crystal resides in the American Museum of Natural History. The British Museum of Natural History owns an 879.5 carat flawless, step-cut aquamarine with a lovely sea-green color. It is easier to find large gem quality pieces of aquamarine than it is to find such pieces of emerald.
Aquamarine is at home in the most casual setting as well as the most elegant. Small aquas may be set alone in dainty settings, with or without diamond accent. Larger aquamarines nestle comfortably in the company of diamonds of many sizes. Aquamarine is one of the few gemstones that looks beautiful with both white and yellow gold or platinum: Yellow gold adds a warm touch to the piece of jewelry; white gold or platinum accentuates the coolness of the gem's color. Aquamarines are set in women's and children's jewelry of all kinds. They are cut in a variety of shapes and sizes for use in rings, earrings, pendants, pins and bracelets. They were a favorite gem for use in the parures (matched sets) of the 1820's and are still striking for similar modern use.
Comparing emerald and aquamarine, the latter is the tougher sister. Aqua is usually free from the inclusions that make emerald more fragile. It is often step-cut (emerald-cut) to show its color to best advantage.
Aquamarine needs to be cleaned often to keep its brilliant sparkle. A thorough, soft brush scrubbing with a commercial jewelry cleaner or liquid detergent and water is sufficient if done after every three or four wearings.
Making a Wise Choice
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase. Our firm is a member of the American Gem Society. As a condition of membership, we are re-examined each year to meet the Society's high standards for knowledge, professionalism and integrity. The AGS symbol is the hallmark of consumer protection within the jewelry profession - as it has been for over 50 years. Many gems are processed to enhance their natural beauty. Ask your American Gem Society jeweler to discuss which techniques might apply to the gem of your choice.