Gemstone of the Month: March
March is a month rich in gemstones. To the purist, there are two options – Bloodstone and Aquamarine, although the modern GIA lists Amethyst as a birthstone for March as well as February. Having featured Amethyst in my February Newsletter, I thought I would tell you a bit about Aquamarine.
Often described as the contents of a mermaid’s treasure chest and the seafarer’s talisman, like seawater, aquamarine can be pale to light-blue, dark-blue, blue-green and green-blue. The name aquamarine originates from the Latin aqua marina, being, water/sea, i.e. seawater. It is a blue variety of beryl (the gemstone family of emerald) and can be found at most localities which yield ordinary beryl including the United States (Colorado Wyoming and Idaho, although the minerals are often within wilderness areas which prevents collecting); and Brazil (in the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Bahia, and Rio Grande do Norte). There are also mines in Colombia, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and India which has recently become one of the biggest suppliers.
Other varieties of beryl include emerald, morganite (pink), goshenite (white), golden beryl (heliodor), green beryl and bixbite (red).
Aquamarine is exceptionally hard and has an outstanding vitreous glass-like lustre. The largest aquamarine of gemstone quality ever mined was found in Marambaia, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1910. It weighed over 110kg (240lb), and its dimensions were 48.5 cm (19 in) long and 42 cm (17 in) in diameter. The largest cut gem is the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, now housed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.
Almost all aquamarine is a lighter blue, although the more saturated the colour, the higher the value. However, unlike other gems, aquamarine is not diminished by lesser colour intensity as most aquamarine is quite pastel and many people prefer the crystal-clear lighter gemstones over the richer, deeper colours. That said, a deeply saturated blue is the most desirable colour but extremely rare in larger specimens. An even more elusive, exceptionally rare and very valuable stone is the six-rayed star aquamarine with its asterism or 'star' appearance.
According to legend, aquamarine originated in the treasure chest of fabulous mermaids and has since ancient times, been regarded as 'the sailor's lucky stone' with ancient seafarers believing it protected them from danger at sea as well as warding off sea-sickness. The Greeks and the Romans regarded aquamarine as the sailor's gem, believing that it ensured a safe and prosperous passage across stormy waters. In antiquity, as well as in the middle ages people believed that the cosmos was reflected in the gemstones found on earth. It is no surprise therefore that aquamarine is assigned to the planet Neptune.
Aquamarine is associated with both 16th and 19th wedding anniversaries. Although it is designated as the official birthstone for those born in March, because of its beauty (and value) you may find that those born under the signs of Pisces and Aries will claim aquamarine as their own even though they may be born in February or April!