Aquamarine is a hard, lustrous mineral and a member of the beryl family of gemstones. The beryl family includes: green Emeralds, pink Morganites, yellow Golden beryls, yellowish green Helidors, colourless Goshenites, very rare red Bixbites and light mint green Green beryls. Aquamarine ranges in colour from pale blue to blue-green or teal and the most prized colour is a deep-blue aqua colour. Some Aquamarine gemstones are heated to high temperatures to enhance the color and/or clarity or to change a blue-green or teal colored stone to a pure blue. This results in a permanent color change. The ancient Greeks called it "beryllos, precious blue-green colour-of-the-sea-water stone".
Brazil has produced the most valuable aquamarines. They are also mined in Kenya, Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Columbia, the USA and Russia. Various colours of Beryl are found most commonly in pegmatites which are composed of quartz, feldspar and mica; in essence granite and is coloured by trace amounts of iron. The best quality gemstones are clear, bright and sparkle in any light. A rare feature in Aquamarine are aligned traces of foreign minerals, called inclusions (hollow rods), causing a six ray star effect or cat’s eye called asterism which fetch a high price.
The largest known beryl was mined in Madagascar at 59’ long x 11’ in diameter and weighs about 400 tons. New England’s Bumpus Quarry, in Albany Maine, mined a large beryl at 18’ x 4’ and weighs around 18 tons. The largest high quality Aquamarine gemstone was found in Brazil in 1910 at 19” long x 17” in diameter and weighed 242 pounds. It was so translucent that one could read the newspaper through it.
The ancient Greeks thought that Aquamarines came from jewelled chests belonging to the Sirens and that the stones came up to the shores from the bottom of the sea. They believed that carrying Aquamarine stones to sea would result in prosperous and safe journeys protecting them from sea monsters and other dangers. Sailors carried Aquamarine amulets to sea as early as 500 BC. Some would be engraved with the image of the God of the Sea, Poseidon. Statues often had Aquamarine eyes as it was believed that the owners would be able to see into the future. Some statues were placed along the coastline and were thought to calm the anger of Poseidon and ensure the safe return of those at sea.
The early Romans believed Aquamarine was a gift to the mermaids from Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea. They used it in foretelling the future as did those in the Middle Ages. They believed that those who wore Aquamarine pendants possessed great knowledge, insight and foresight.
Aquamarine was used in optics for eyeglasses to cure short-sightedness by the early Greeks and later in Germany.
Over the ages it was believed that Aquamarine gave one courage and youthfulness, a treatment for anxiety, help ease arthritis, reduce eye inflammation, for sore throats, to reduce the effect of poisons, and prevent seasickness.
Aquamarine gems are relatively inexpensive, easy to cut and facet, look great set in silver or gold and are very popular for all types of Jewellry from necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings.
The gemstone Aquamarine is the modern March birthstone as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is also the birthstone for the Zodiac sign of Scorpio.