Aquamarine derives it name from the Latin term for water (aqua) and sea (mare) – and one look at this elegant gem’s blue hues easily explains why.
According to legend, aquamarine was the treasure of mermaids and had the power to keep sailors safe at sea. It was also thought to possess a number of other mystical properties, including the ability to help couples smooth out their differences; protect against the wiles of the devil; cure headaches, insomnia and other ailments; quicken the intellect; and attract new friends. It is the symbol for youth, hope, health and fidelity. It is said that its strengths are developed to their best advantage when the gem is submerged in water, which is bathed in sunlight. However, it is surely better still to wear aquamarine, since according to the old traditions this promises a happy marriage and is said to bring the woman who wears it joy and wealth.
A variety of the mineral beryl, like the emerald, aquamarine is found in many exotic places around the world. For years, Madagascar was the prime source of the stone, notably gems of a medium and darker blue color, today though Brazil leads the way as the largest producer of the mermaid’s treasure.
Other major producing areas of the sea stone are Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria, along with Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Australia, and even here in the U.S.A. Afghanistan too, is known to be a major producer of the gem but, for obvious reasons, supplies from the region have been less than stable in recent years.
Aquamarine is found in a range of blue shades, from pale pastel to greenish-blue to deep blue. Deeper colors are unusual in smaller sizes; generally, it takes a larger stone to hold a darker shade. The most prized aquamarines are those displaying a deeper, pure blue, with no green tints. These are rarer and therefore more valuable. But if you prefer those with a greenish hue, you should be able to get them for a bargain price.
Like with any gem that is pale, aquamarines should be “eye clean” (no inclusions visible to the naked eye), since internal flaws are more noticeable in a pastel stone. This shouldn’t be much of a problem – unlike its emerald sister, aquamarine is known for being relatively free of inclusions. This is why aquamarines are frequently cut with large step facets to show off their flawless surfaces. The most popular cuts for aquamarine are oval and emerald.
Settings for aquamarine can also safely expose more of the gemstone than is possible with emerald. Aquamarine’s tendency toward having few inclusions makes it less susceptible to nicks or cracks than many other gems. With an “8” ranking on the Mohs hardness scale, the stone is very durable and can stand up to everyday wear. Its clear, pale brilliance makes it an appropriate stone for all types of jewelry – and it combines well with all jewelry metals and is flattering to most skin tones.