Birthstone Guide: Aquamarine for those Born in March

The blue hues common to this beautiful stone are fitting considering the Latin aqua mare means ‘water of the sea’. Legends describe it as the mermaid’s stone, bringing luck to sailors and protecting them from the perils of the ocean. 

Beryl Gem-A Archive. Aquamarine birthstone
Facetted Beryl from the Gem-A Archive

A member of the beryl family, including emerald, heliodor, morganite and goshenite; aquamarine is distinguished by its blue to green colour. 

Read more: Exploring the wonders of Myanmar

Many aquamarines available in the gem market have been heat treated. Starting with a yellowish, greenish or bluish-green beryl, heat treatment leads to a stable blue colour. 

Where is Aquamarine Found?

Mainly found in mines in Africa and Brazil, the March birthstone can also be mined in Australia, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Madagascar, Russia, USA and Sri Lanka. The trace amounts of iron found in aquamarine causes the sea like colour and is what distinguishes this stone from pure colourless beryl. 

Distinguishing Features of Aquamarines 

Aquamarine often occurs as a hexagonal-shaped long prismatic crystal, with striations and rectangular etch marks occasionally found on the prism surfaces. 

Beryl Aquamarine Crystal Rectangular Etch Pits on Prism Face. Image Courtesy of Pat Daly. Birthstone Aquamarine
Beryl Aquamarine Crystal Rectangular Etch Pits on Prism Face. Photo Credit Pat Daly.

The stone’s durability and bountiful supply make this stone a popular choice and it can be fashioned into most cuts, making it a firm favourite with many lapidaries. 

Read more: An Exclusive Interview with Gem Cutter John Dyer

Although many cut aquamarines are free of inclusions, two-phase inclusions (liquid and gas filled), spiky cavities and tubes parallel to the length of the crystal that look like rain are common.

Beryl Aquamarine Feather of Two Phase Inclusions. Image Courtesy of Pat Daly. Birthstone Aquamarine
Beryl Aquamarine Feather of Two Phase Inclusions. Photo Credit Pat Daly.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine

Perhaps the most famous aquamarine specimen is the 10363 ct Dom Pedro, which weighs an astonishing 26 kg. To this day, it holds the honour of being the largest piece of aquamarine ever to be cut. It was specialists in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, who took on the challenge in 1992.

Discovered by three Brazilian miners in Pedra Azul, Minas Gerais in Brazil in the late 1980s, the original aquamarine was a meter-long. Accidentally dropped it fractured into three pieces and the Dom Pedro was the largest piece from the split. 

In 1991, Jürgen Henn from Idar-Oberstein, visited the owner of the large aquamarine crystal. However, the crystal was not for sale and he returned to Germany. In 1992 the stone went on the market and Jürgen asked his colleague Bernd Munsteiner to look at the stone. Bernd sent his son, Tom Munsteiner and Jürgen’s son Axel Henn, to strike a deal in Brazil and bring the stone to Germany. 

For a year Bernd worked on the stone, studying the crystal, drawing facet patterns, cutting, faceting and polishing. Before transforming the rough stone into the majestic obelisk, recognised and admired by many today. 

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine, from Brazil. Photo Credit Don Hurlbert. Image Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution. Birthstone Aquamarine
The Dom Pedro Aquamarine, from Brazil. Photo Credit Don Hurlbert. Image Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.

The Dom Pedro first went on public display in 1993 at Basel, the annual gem fair in Switzerland. Almost cut up into smaller gemstones in the late 1990s, it was rescued by Jane Mitchell and generously donated to the Smithsonian, National Museum of History, Washington DC, USA. The awe-inspiring gemstone is in the permanent collection of the museum, housed in the National Gem Collection Gallery

Read more: An Interview with Dr Jeffrey Post of the Smithsonian Institution

Testing aquamarine

When viewed through a Chelsea colour filter aquamarine give a blue-green colour; different from the reaction of many of the other light blue gemstones. When tested with a dichroscope a blue/ green colour shows colourless and pale blue. The material is dichroic. ■

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image beryl aquamarine crystal. Photo credit Pat Daly. 


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


Interview: Steve Moriarty on a Lifetime in Gems

Interview: Steve Moriarty on a Lifetime in Gems

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gem-A's Gems&Jewellery, Steve Moriarty shares his lifelong gem-cutting journey. 

Read more


Journal Digest: Blue Cambodian Zircon

Journal Digest: Blue Cambodian Zircon

Guy Lalous ACAM EG returns with our latest Journal Digest exploring the properties of Blue Zircon from Ratanakiri, Cambodia, featured in 2018 Volume 36 No.2 of The Journal of Gemmology

Read more


Heritage Series: Gem-A President Maggie Campbell Pedersen

Heritage Series: Gem-A President Maggie Campbell Pedersen

Exploring Gem-A's history from 1908 to the present day, our Heritage Series concludes with an exclusive interview from Gem-A’s current President Maggie Campbell Pedersen FGA ABIPP

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Citrine for those born in November

Birthstone Guide: Citrine for those born in November

Gem-A Gemmology Tutor, Lily Faber FGA DGA EG, explores November's birthstone: Citrine

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Q&A with Dr. Jeffrey E. Post

Speaker in the Spotlight: Q&A with Dr. Jeffrey E. Post

With the Gem-A Conference 2018 only days away, speaker Dr. Jeffrey E. Post talks to us ahead of his presentation on the Hope Diamond and other Smithsonian Gems.

Read more


Heritage Series: Delving into Diamonds - Eric Bruton

Heritage Series: Delving into Diamonds - Eric Bruton

Gem-A's Heritage Series returns to celebrate Eric Bruton, the Association's president 1994-6, whose work on diamonds led to Gem-A's Diamond Diploma. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more