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Aquamarine: It isn’t Just a Pretty Rock

RWC tutor Paula Rawlings gives insightful background on this birthstone.

Aquamarine is the birthstone of March. It belongs to the beryl mineral family, which is full of varying hues, but aquamarine comes in, well, aquamarine, the color of the ocean: sea-blue, blue-green, cyan, cerulean, sky-blue, all those blue-ish hues. It’s gorgeous. Looking at one makes a person feel like going to the beach. It’s a strong stone. With a strength measuring 7.5-8 on the mhos scale, it is not as strong as a diamond, which measures ten mhos, but it is durable and can withstand everyday wear (“March Birthstone”). Unfortunately, it is prone to scratching, so digging a hole in the sand at the beach with your hands would not be a wise activity to participate in if wearing aquamarine.

Some common locations where aquamarine is found are Madagascar, Zambia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, but Brazil, in particular, produces large, high-quality crystals. How is its quality measured? By an aquamarine’s color, Clarity, cut, and carat. Gemologists evaluate the dominant color, whether the stone is more blue or green, the tone, lightness, or darkness of the color, and by measuring its saturation, which is the intensity or purity of the color. As reported in a New York jewelry store blog by With Clarity, “The blue color is a result of iron in the crystal, with the shade of blue being determined by the way in which the iron was incorporated.” So, according to gemology standards, if an aquamarine stone is pure blue, medium to medium-dark tone, and highly saturated, it is generally considered the most desirable and, therefore, quite valuable. Although this is the measurement of an aquamarine stone’s value, the many varying hues are equally beautiful. Some qualities are simply more expensive than others.

Furthermore, there are some serious aquamarine specimens in the world. But one such gem, the Dom Pedro, named after Brazil's first two emperors, Dom Pedro Primeiro and his son, Dom Pedro Segundo, is housed at the National Museum of Natural History. It stands "14 inches (36 cm) long by 4 inches (10 cm) wide (at the thicker base) and weighs 10,363 cts.," or 4.6 pounds (International Gem Society). It is the world's largest cut aquamarine and was unearthed in Pedra Azul, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in the 1980s. Bernd Munsteine was the lucky, and famous, gem cutter who was gifted the privilege of exposing the gem's natural characteristics by carving and polishing it into an obelisk and magnifying its inner features.

Besides, Aquamarine isn’t simply a pretty rock. It has been associated with mythology and was believed to be the treasure of mermaids. In ancient Greece and Rome, the stone was reported as sacred to Poseidon, the god of the sea. And, according to legend, aquamarine originated from the jewelry boxes of mermaids, who would lure sailors to their doom by the power of their enchanting songs. Conversely, it was also carried by sailors as a talisman for protection at sea and promoted tranquility. Aquamarine was thought to give clarity of mind and emotional balance, along with, according to metaphysical beliefs, have an association with the throat chakra, and be an aid in communication. Maybe that’s why mermaids’ voices are so hypnotic. People planning on competing in America’s Got Talent should wear an aquamarine necklace. Now here’s a thought: students, if you have a hard time paying attention to a teacher, pitch in and gift the teacher with an aquamarine apple as a paperweight, and be mystified.

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