Aquamarine, The March Birthstone Of Blue Seas And Skies
Aquamarine, a stunning blue crystal, the colour is the shade of the fantasy ocean seas of our imagination. For generations, the aquamarine has symbolised hope, health youth and fidelity. Being the colour of both sea and sky the stone, for many people, represents a life eternal.
Colours can range from a pastel shade through to greenish blue to, increasingly rare, dark blue. For the deepest blue seek out a large stone, smaller stones will have a paler appearance.
Aquamarine’s Long History
Aquamarine has a long history going back to the Ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians. Both cultures thought that aquamarine could give its owner eternal youth and, more down to earth, happiness. During Pharaonic times, it was common for Egyptians to be buried with artefacts made of aquamarine that would be used in the owner’s next life.
The Greeks were using aquamarine in their artworks some 3000 years ago.
In Roman times, fishermen called the stone ‘aqua marina', water of the sea, and believed it could bring them bumper catches. Roman sailors thought that the stone could keep them safe on long voyages. More generally, Romans believed the stone had purifying powers; they used large crystals to carve drinking vessels. Frequently a frog would be carved onto such chalices to bring harmony and friendship to events where the aquamarine chalice was used.
By the Middle Ages, the fame of aquamarine had spread to England where it is mentioned in the 1377 poem Piers Plowman as being an antidote for poisoning, a belief common across Europe that continued for several centuries. The demand for aquamarine was boosted, at the time, because poisoning was a common fate for the powerful and wealthy.
The largest high-quality aquamarine crystal ever found was mined in Brazil in 1910. The stone weighed over 90 kg. After cutting it produced gems with a carat weight of over 200,000 carats. The biggest single cut and faceted gem of aquamarine is the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, mined in Minas Gerais in Brazil around 1980. The stone is 36cm by 10cm and weighs 10,33 carats. It is on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
Aquamarine Part Of A Family Of Gems
Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family of stones; other members of the same group are emeralds, golden beryl, goshenite, morganite and red beryl. All these crystals gain their colour from impurities in the stone. Beryl itself can be completely transparent and, in the 13th century was used to make spectacles.
Beryl, the crystal that is the basis of aquamarine is made of beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate that has formed into crystals under heat and pressure. Some crystals can be huge.
The blue colour in aquamarine comes from trace amounts of iron. Dark aquamarine gems called maxixe can be faked by bombarding green, pink or yellow beryl with radiation.
Aquamarine is found in most places where beryl is found. Large deposits of aquamarine crystals can be found in Sri Lanka, Brazil (noted for green-yellow tints), natural maxixe comes from Madagascar, several states in the USA produce aquamarine, and significant deposits come from Colombia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania.
The best aquamarine gems are from Brazil where the colours tend to be the highly prized deep blue.
Meanings And Beliefs Associated With Aquamarine
The clear blue crystal of aquamarine has been popular with oracles and fortune tellers. The favoured material for making crystal balls was aquamarine.
Aquamarine is reputed to bring victory in legal disputes and battles. In more physical matters, aquamarine could cure belching and yawning and was highly regarded for cures for toothache. Pliny The Elder, recorded in his Natural History that when a patient’s eye was washed in water with an aquamarine immersed in it, most eye diseases would be cured.
Devotees held that aquamarine could control the weather, keeping rain away from outdoor ceremonies.
Today, some alternative healers swear by aquamarine. Some advocate for its use to help those who have a fear of public speaking. It allows speakers to articulate their ideas with clarity, to speak without anger. Aquamarine is a love crystal, encouraging a distant lover to return, helps different personalities to live together and reduces the sensitivities that lead to quarrels.
Choosing And Using Aquamarine In Jewellery
Almost all aquamarines used in jewellery have been treated with heat at about 430 degrees. The effect of heat treatment is to make the colour of the gem darker and reduce any yellow-green tones.
Aquamarine can be cut into most shapes and sizes; however, the most popular cuts are emerald cut followed by oval and pear shapes. Hardness is 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale making it suitable for most kinds of jewellery and most occasions. If used as a ring stone, it is worthwhile to have the gem refinished every few years to bring the sparkle back to the same as when originally purchased.
Because the colour of aquamarine flatters all skin colours the gem is very popular; particularly lovely are pieces such as earrings and necklaces due to their closeness to the skin.Taking care of your aquamarine jewellery is not difficult. Just wash the pieces in warm soapy water and agitate with a soft toothbrush. Do not use hot water as too hot water might cause cracking or even splitting. Also, avoid ultrasonic cleaners. In use, try to avoid getting hairspray and cosmetics on the stones.
Such a lovely stone, none of us can avoid thinking of sunny skies and warm, clear blue seas when we see an aquamarine. Our associations with aquamarine are universally positive, so it makes a perfect jewellery gift whether on a birthday or some other special occasion.