Aquamarine is a variety of beryl, which is the same gemstone family as emerald and morganite. Though aquamarine and emerald belong to the same family, they are surprisingly different. They are both beryllium aluminum silicates. Where emerald is colored by trace amounts of chromium and and/or vanadium, aquamarine is colored by iron. But while emerald and beryl have essentially the same specific gravity and refractive index, emerald tends to be quite hazy and included, while aquamarine typically has excellent transparency and clarity.
Though the beryls are quite hard gems -- rating 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale -- emerald has always been regarded as a somewhat delicate gem due to its many inclusions. Emeralds are usually oiled to fill fractures and improve their color. Aquamarine, on the other hand, requires no special treatment and is suitable for all kinds of jewelry, including rings. Most aquamarines have been heat treated at low temperature to reduce the level of green or yellow tones.
The intensity of color and the clarity of the stone are the most important criteria when evaluating aquamarine. Deep blue aquamarines are rare and command the highest prices in the world's gemstone markets, though deep blue aquamarine is still a pastel blue. Unlike other gems, aquamarine is not diminished by lesser intensity of color -- many people actually prefer the more crystal clear lighter gemstones to the richer, deeper colors. You will find aquamarine in both faceted and cabochon cuts.
Aquamarine derives its name from the Latin term for seawater, and has a long tradition as the sailor's lucky stone. The Greeks and the Romans knew the aquamarine as the sailor's gem, ensuring the safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. Legend has it that aquamarines were the prized possessions of mermaids and thus would would protect sailors from danger, including warding off sea sickness.
An alternate birthstone for March is bloodstone, a dark green opaque quartz flecked with red spots. The name bloodstone derives from the legendary belief that the red coloration resulted from the blood of Christ spilling onto green jasper during the crucifixion. For this reason, too, the stone has been called "martyr's stone." Bloodstone is mined in India, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, and the United States. Ideal for carving into cameos and beads, this stone symbolizes courage.
- First Published: January-27-2009
- Last Updated: March-05-2011
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