Renowned for its striking shades of blue and green, aquamarine is the most common variety of gem beryl and one of the most popular gemstones on the market. It is classified as the official birthstone for the month of March, and is generally flattering on all skin types and colors.
History and Legends
Aquamarine has been a valued gemstone for centuries. Ancient amulets dating as far back as 500 B.C. have been found featuring the distinctly blue-green gemstone, proving that people have shown interest in it for many generations, whether for decorative, medicinal or financial purposes. In ancient Rome, it was believed that if the outline of a frog were carved into the stone, it would reconcile enemies and unite them as friends. Another Roman folktale claims that the stone releases the emotions and sentiments of young love. It was also a common gift for a groom to give to his bride after their marriage ceremony.
Both the Greeks and the Romans considered aquamarine as a sailor’s gem, which promoted safe travels during dangerous sea voyages. In Medieval times, it was believed to rekindle the love of married couples.
Aquamarine was also highly regarded by the Sumerians, Egyptians and Hebrews, signifying contentment and eternal youth. In William Langland’s “The Vision Concerning Piers and the Plowman,” from 1377, aquamarine was deemed an antidote for poison, which became high in demand throughout Europe after a large number of poisonings occurred among royalty during that time.
Stories from the Middle Ages told of aquamarine as the most popular and efficient of the oracle crystals. It was used to create crystal balls for fortune telling or as a divining tool. The stone’s powers of were also said to help find lost or hidden items, as well as protect against enemies while wearing it in combat or during litigation.
Like other gemstone names, the term “aquamarine” originates from the Latin language. In this case, it is formed from the words “aqua” and “marina”, which translates to “water of the sea.”
Formation and Physical Properties
Aquamarine rough. Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0
Aquamarine’s scientific formula is Be3Al2(Si6O18). Its crystals form on aboriginal rocks in granite pegmatite’s geological cavities throughout the world. It is made from Beryl – a very easily attainable mineral – but also includes Beryllium, a much more rare element.
Aquamarine typically forms in a perfect six-sided hexagon in prismatic crystals. Unlike its green cousin – emerald – aquamarine is usually almost completely free of inclusions and possesses a significant amount of iron in the hexagonal crystalline of the stone, creating the remarkable blue and green colors that make it so unique.
Aquamarine forms mainly in pegmatite and mica schists in regions including Brazil; China; Madagascar; Sri Lanka; India; Pakistan; Mozambique; Zambia; Kenya; Australia; with lesser quantities formed in Russia, the United States (Colorado and California); and other countries.
Although it may be readily available in multiple locations throughout the world, aquamarine characteristics do tend to change among different localities. Brazilian gems are naturally more bluish-green, while those sourced from Madagascar are more of a medium dark blue.
Numerous large aquamarine crystals have been discovered around the world – the biggest being one found in Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1910. It weighed a total of 244 lbs. (110 kg) and was measured at 19 in. (48 cm) in length and 15 in. (38 cm) in diameter. A uncut piece of the giant crystal’s outer green portion is housed in the American Museum of Natural History.