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Aquamarine – Stone of the Sea: March’s Birthstone

Aquamarine on Muscovite, Nagar Hunza Valley, Pakistan
Aquamarine on Muscovite, Nagar Hunza Valley, Pakistan – photographed by Gunnar Ries Amphibol in 2006.

Derived from the Latin words for water (aqua) and the sea (marina), Aquamarine is a highly prized greenish blue stone hailing from the beryl group.

Aqumarine, and all gemstones in the beryl group, belong to the hexagonal crystal system. Aquamarine generally grows as a six-sided column and is found in granitic pegmatites. It has also been found in mica schists of the Ural Mountains, as well as limestone in Columbia.

Aquamarine, platinum, and diamond brooch-pendant
Aquamarine is suitable for use in fine jewelry pieces, especially because of its transparent and inclusion-free appearance. This brooch was a gift from the president of Brazil to “Lady Bird” Johnson, wife of president Lyndon B. Johnson. Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Said to calm waves and keep sailors safe at sea, Aquamarine’s finest color (a highly saturated, medium-tone greenish-blue) is certainly reminiscent of the sea. This typically inclusion free and transparent stone is readily available in large quantities, making it a popular choice for use in jewelry.

Other gems from the beryl group you may be familiar with include morganite, heliodor, goshenite, and perhaps the most famous gem of the beryl group: emerald. Emerald is one of the “Big Three” most valuable colored stones in the jewelry industry. The fact that emerald and aquamarine are both beryls with the same crystal structure and basic chemical composition truly boggles the mind. Why?

Gemstone clarity cannot be judged by a “one size fits all” type of scale, as there are varied expectations of clarity in gemstones. While you may be familiar with the diamond clarity scale, for example, it is specific to diamond and cannot be applied to colored stones. All colored stones are classified as Type I, Type II, or Type III, which refers to clarity and how typically included the stone appears to the naked eye.

Emeralds are Type III gemstones, which means they are heavily to severely included. Their clarity cannot be judged on the same scale as Type I gemstones, such as aquamarine, as these stones are nearly always free of eye visible inclusions. How fascinating that emerald, one of the most visibly included Type III gemstones, is essentially a brother to transparent, clear Type I aquamarine.

Though they are typically transparent and eye-clean, aquamarines have color that is pale or very light in tone. For this reason, many aquamarines are heat-treated to produce a richer, deeper, and more desirable color.

Less valuable stones such as blue topaz and blue apatite can be easily confused for aquamarine, and the inherent clarity and transparency of aquamarines mean that they can be easily imitated by materials such as glass. For this reason, correctly identifying and valuing aquamarines can be tricky. Lucky for you, JAGi Lab’s staff of GIA Graduate Gemologists is here to help.

Each gemologist at our lab is highly trained and experienced in identifying aquamarine and separating it from imitations and synthetics, as well as evaluating quality factors for colored stones.

JAGi Lab's gemologists are experts at identifying and valuing aquamarines set in jewelry.

A vast amount of unrealized wealth lies hidden within every pawnbroker’s jewelry and gemstone inventory. JAGi Lab is dedicated to using our combined knowledge and experience of the gem & jewelry world to help clients find and identify that wealth.

March 1, 2021 Gemstones, Latest News , , , ,
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