Aquamarine is one of the most popular and well-known gems. The name comes from the Latin aqua marina, meaning “water of the sea,” referring to the stone's delightful blue to turquoise color for which it is so popular. Aquamarine is a type of Beryl, a mineral composed of beryllium aluminum silicate. The English word for brilliance can be traced back to beryl's etymology, which goes back to Dravidian origin in southern Asia. Pure beryl is colorless. Often, the stone is found tinted with impurities. The blue color of aquamarine is created by traces of iron. Green beryl is called emerald, yellow is heliador, red is red emerald, and pink is morganite.
Most aquamarine has a very light tone, but the more saturated the color, the higher the value. Blue aquamarine fetches a higher price than turquoise ones. Very deep blue aquamarine is called Maxixe, and commonly comes from Madagascar. Because aquamarine is generally very clean, high quality stones should be expected to be clean at least to the naked eye. Small inclusions are considered acceptable if the color is quite good. But most aquamarines are almost completely clean, even under a jeweler's loupe (10x magnification). Some aquamarine features aligned traces of foreign minerals, causing a cat's eye or star (asterism) effect. These pieces command premium prices. Large aquamarines are not uncommon, but top grade stones of good color are rare and pretty expensive in sizes over 10 carats. Still, the price is quite attractive, at $150-$200 per carat. Favored cuts are emerald and brilliant, in long or rectangular shapes. Most aquamarines have been heat-treated to produce the popular blue-green color from less-desirable yellow or pale stones. The heating treatment is usually undetectable, since the temperatures used are low enough not to affect internal structures. Brazil is the leading producer of aquamarine, although the stone is found all over the world, including several US locations. The largest gem-quality aquamarine was found in 1910 in Marambaia, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The stone weighed 243 pounds, was 19” long and 17” in diameter. The piece was cut into many gems, with a total weight of over 100,000 carats.
Mythology tells that aquamarine originated in the treasure chest of mermaids, and has been regarded since ancient times as the lucky stone of sailors. In antiquity and the Middle Ages, people believed the the cosmos was reflected in the gemstone, and aquamarine was assigned to the planet Neptune. The stone is said to help with arthritis, eye inflammation, sore throat, and varicose veins. It is also said to promise a happy marriage and to bring joy and wealth to the woman who wears it.