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The Many Blues of Aquamarine

September 16th, 2011 Jewelry

The birthstone of March babies, aquamarine is a beautiful and popular gemstone thanks to its soothing color, hardness and shine.

Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family and can range from a pale, almost colorless blue to a rich blue-green or teal shade, depending on the iron levels present during its formation. A deep aqua-colored gem is the most valuable. Today, many stones are heated to permanently enhance their color. The word aquamarine stems from the Latin words for water and sea (aqua and mare), which truly encapsulates the hues of the jewel.

The most prized aquamarine gems are harvested in Brazil, but several African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries also have viable sources.

Aquamarine has long been believed to give those who wear it foresight, courage and happiness. Some believe the stone increases intelligence and can make you look younger. The gem was used to treat anxiety and poisoning during the Middle Ages. Sailors considered aquamarines to be lucky, offering protection against storms and seasickness, according to the International Colored Gemstone Association.

Many modern designers like to work with aquamarines because their clarity makes it easy to see inclusions (other minerals in the stone), which can play up the gem's attractiveness in some cases. However, these ingrained materials generally reduce a gem's value, and aquamarine has far fewer of them than emeralds, which are in the same family. The 'Dom Pedro' aquamarine was the largest ever to have been cut, weighing in at about 57 pounds. It was found in Brazil in 1992 and was cut by Bernd Munsteiner.

Blue topaz is often confused with aquamarine because they have similar colors and qualities. As a result, some fraudulent jewelry salesmen try to sell blue topaz as aquamarine, but topaz is less expensive, so make sure you know what you're buying!