Aquamarine: Just the Facts About March’s Birthstone

Two powerhouses of the beryl family take their places in the birthstone cycle. One is emerald, appearing in May. The other is aquamarine, the birthstone for March.

ABOVE: This 12.47 carat, light blue Burmese aqua is an example of the delicate pastel range of aquamarine. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Aquamarine Clarity

Besides its distinctive color, the nicest thing about aquamarine–in contrast to their often-highly-included and more brittle cousin, emerald–is that aquas are often free of inclusions. If you want to wear your aqua birthstone in a ring every day–in an engagement ring, perhaps–you can take full advantage of beryl’s hardness of 7.5 to 8. It’s harder than quartz, so it won’t scratch with the dust in the air, and almost as hard as topaz without topaz’s brittleness. (You’ll still want to keep it out of the steamer, though, as thermal shock can be unkind to gemstones.)

Aquamarine Color

When shopping for an aquamarine, you’ll look first for color. Do you want a dark blue without the green component or do you like the greenish sea-blue color for which the stone was named? As with most colored stones, the deeper or more intense the color, the higher the price tag.

However, be aware that at their best, aquas are only medium-dark in tone. For the most part, this means the smaller the stone, the lighter in color it is. As a result, it can be difficult to find small aquamarines that have intense color. (This is one reason that people looking for an intense blue tend to choose blue topaz.) In order to draw enough color to make them appealing, most aquas are usually cut in large sizes, most often in an emerald-cut shape.

 

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One exception is the Midnight Aquamarine being sold by designer Graziela. This intense blue stone is from a small find in Brazil, and the designer assures us it is natural. It’s definitely a knockout if you’re looking for a true blue aquamarine!

Aquamarine Individuality

Next, if you want a clean stone, aqua is commonly found in quite large, transparent, and eye-clean crystals. However, a number of designers, such as Eli Halili in New York, and their customers are less concerned about clarity and more interested in individuality. They are choosing unusually cut stones that contain inclusions that set them apart from other stones.

This faceted blue-green aquamarine, set in a 18k yellow gold pendant by Eli Halili with a 22k yellow gold chain, contains eye-visible inclusions, but the unusual cut and the unique inclusions set it apart from any other aqua. Courtesy Eli Halili.

This faceted blue-green aquamarine, set in a 18k yellow gold pendant by Eli Halili with a 22k yellow gold chain, contains eye-visible inclusions, but the unusual cut and the unique inclusions set it apart from any other aqua. Courtesy Eli Halili.

Aquamarine Cabochons

If you’re primarily interested in color, you may even be able to find a more richly colored, though highly included aquamarine in a cabochon cut. Be aware, though, when buying included gemstones–they may be inherently weaker due to the strain that inclusions can impart. They will require a little more careful wear and should be fully protected if set in rings.

Aquamarine Jewelry Design

If you are a jewelry maker, be aware that designing with aquamarines can be a bit tricky. Their greenish-blue color can be hard to match with other blue or green stones. You might try blue to blue-green apatite, possibly prehnite, or greenish turquoise. But on the whole, you’ll be better to accent your aqua with something like pearls or the classic: diamonds.


Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.


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