Aquamarine Gemstone – A Comprehensive Buying Guide

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Aquamarine is well-known for its blue color, so much so that the very word ‘aquamarine’ refers to its specific shade of blue. This March birthstone is a member of the illustrious beryl family and is closely related to emerald and morganite. Aquamarine is quite durable and suits almost all types of jewelry. If you’re thinking of adding an aquamarine to your collection, check out this guide to buying aquamarine to learn all about this quintessential blue stone.

How is Aquamarine Formed?

Aquamarine is made when extremely hot magma under the Earth’s crust interacts with mineral-rich rocks under mountain ranges.

stone drop aquamarine earrings
Stone Drop Aquamarine Earrings by Delezhen. See them here

As the magma pushes through little cracks and crevices in the rocks it reacts with the minerals present there and gemstones are formed. Aquamarine is formed in igneous rocks and the crystals are often highly transparent and flawless.

Where is Aquamarine Found?

Aquamarine is primarily found in Brazil, although several African and Asian countries have also become leading sources of aquamarine deposits. Pakistan is recognized for having the best aquamarine crystals, while China, Russia, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, and Nepal are other noteworthy sources of quality crystals.

Aquamarine Mineral Family

Aquamarine is a gemstone that belongs to the larger family of gemstones known as beryl. The beryl mineral family is illustrious and valued in the gemstone world as it also includes emeralds, morganites, and heliodors.

The Four Cs of Aquamarine

When purchasing an aquamarine, the 4Cs of color, clarity, cut and carat will assist you in evaluating the stone.

Aquamarine Color

Aquamarine stones are well known for their varying blue hues from light, nearly translucent blue to a deep rich blue. In its natural state, aquamarine is commonly bluish with green hues. The darker, more vibrant shades fetch higher prices and are generally more desirable.

The common deep blue color we often see is achieved by heating the gemstone to a high temperature. Heating the aquamarine to different temperatures will change the color greatly. Anything between a light blue-green stone to a darker blue stone is desirable.

diamond and aquamarine halo pendant
Oval Aquamarine Diamond Pendant by GNG Jewel. See it here.

The shades of aquamarine often bring to mind the colors of the sea, which is fitting because the name aquamarine is derived from a Latin term meaning ‘water of the sea’.

Aquamarine Clarity

aquamarine pear shaped necklace
Natural Aquamarine Pear-Shaped Necklace by Real Little Gems See it here.

Clarity is determined by how transparent and clear the gemstone is. The fewer inclusions and foreign matter within the crystal, the higher the clarity and the more desirable the stone.

When there are inclusions present in the stone it becomes a little more difficult to heat the stone to achieve certain colors and to cut to an ideal shape. The most valuable pieces of aquamarine will have no visible inclusions. Aquamarine, in general, has excellent clarity and transparency, compared to its cousin emerald. This results in a more durable and stable stone.

Aquamarine Cut

Due to its color and clarity, properly cut aquamarine gemstones can have incredible shine and brilliance, accentuating the aquamarine’s naturally existing beauty.

Hand Carved Aquamarine Jewelries
Hand Carved Aquamarine Earrings and Necklaces by Michelle Lee Studio GB. See them here.

Aquamarines can be cut into all popular gemstone shapes, although brilliant cuts are often chosen due to the stone’s sparkle and light performance. Round and princess cuts are beautiful for aquamarine, as well as a cushion, pear, marquise, trilliants, and other fancy cuts. Because of its transparency, aquamarine also looks beautiful when shaped into cuts that have wide, open facets such as emerald, Asscher or old cushion cuts.

Aquamarine Carat Size

Aquamarines are found in a range of sizes and are quite an abundant gemstone. You can choose the gemstone size based on your preference, but you’ll notice that small aquamarine gemstones are rarely used as accent stones in jewelry, as they often tend not to have a vibrant hue.

The largest aquamarine ever found was mined in Brazil and weighed about 60 pounds. It is now in the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

larges aquamarine dom-pedro
The largest Aquamarine. Source 

Aquamarine Jewelry

Due to its durability and wearability, aquamarine suits most types of jewelry.

Blue aquamarine ring
Riviera Pave Aquamarine Ring by Blue Nile. See it here.

Whether you have minimalist or maximalist tastes, aquamarine rings can be found in a range of styles. The gemstone is hard enough to be worn in rings although it’s important to take care not to expose the ring to knocks and bumps. If choosing aquamarine for an engagement ring, ensure that the ring is set in a protective setting and maintained carefully.

Most aquamarine jewelry will be crafted using silver-hued metals, as the silver-blue combination seems to be the most popular. There is less of a contrast and the jewelry looks modern.

However, if you want a unique, eye-catching look, consider an aquamarine set in rose or yellow gold. This gives a vintage, classic feel to the piece.

Aquamarine ring in yellow gold
Sky Blue Aquamarine and Diamond Ring by Gem Stone King. See it here.

Because aquamarine is the birthstone for March, it is a great gift idea for March-born babies. Some retailers, like Blue Nile, offer birthstone jewelry collections that are reasonably priced and ideal for casual or everyday wear.

Should I Buy an Aquamarine Engagement Ring?

Engagement rings are pieces of jewelry that most people plan to wear on a regular basis. While aquamarine looks stunning, it’s also important to consider its durability.

An aquamarine ranks at 8 on the Mohs scale, meaning that it is quite a hard and durable gemstone. However, it’s nowhere as hard as diamonds and much lower in durability than sapphires and rubies.

Blue aquamarine ring
Aquamarine and Diamond Halo Ring by Blue Nile. See it here.

If choosing aquamarine for an engagement ring, ensure that the ring is set in a protective setting and maintained carefully. Halo and bezel settings are excellent because they offer an extra layer of protection to the stone.  However, solitaire settings can expose an aquamarine to bumps, knocks, and hard impact which can damage the stone.

Before buying an aquamarine engagement ring, consider your lifestyle and how it’ll fit in with your daily work. For example, if you spend a lot of your time typing or writing, then a stone like aquamarine should be fine for you. But if you use your hands a lot and expose them to chemicals then opting for a harder stone might make it easier for you in the long run.

Aquamarine Treatments and Imitations

Although aquamarine is generally untreated, some crystals that hold yellow or green tints will be subjected to heat treatments in order to reduce these tints and enhance the blue color of the stone. This is a standard industry practice and not something to worry about. However, your retailer should be upfront about this and let you know that the stone has been heatedly treated.

aquamarine raw stud earrings
Raw Aquamarine Stud Earrings by Danibarbe Shop. See them here.

While aquamarine is usually an easy gemstone to spot, it is important to be on the lookout for imitations. A common aquamarine imitation is a glass.

There are several ways to determine whether an aquamarine gemstone is real or simply colored glass.

  • The first thing to do is take a good hard look at your stone. If you find scratches on the surface of the gem it is most likely a fake. Aquamarine is a very hard stone (Mohs 8) and therefore is quite difficult to scratch. It is much harder than glass which has a Mohs ranking of just 5.5.
  • The second step is to see if you can find any bubbles in your stone. If you see small air bubbles under the surface of the stone it is highly likely that it is colored glass. You will never find air bubbles in an aquamarine.
  • Another way to check the stone’s authenticity is to gauge the temperature of the stone. Place it against your forehead and check to see if the stone is at room temperature or cold to the touch. If the stone does not feel cold it is probably not an aquamarine. Aquamarine will always feel colder than room temperature.
  • If you are still uncertain of the quality and integrity of your piece, the most reliable thing to do is to take the stone to a professional jeweler and have them take a look.

A natural stone that is very similar to aquamarine is blue topaz. It is sometimes passed off as aquamarine. These two gemstones can look identical although aquamarine is the more expensive of the two. Check out our article on aquamarine vs. blue topaz for more information.

Caring for Your Aquamarine

Aquamarine is easy to maintain. If you find that your aquamarine is becoming dull or cloudy, the best way to clean it is by soaking it in some warm water with a few drops of dish soap. After soaking your stone for a few minutes, remove it and use a fine bristle brush, such as a toothbrush, to clean the stone. This should return your aquamarine to its original shine and beauty.

Avoid exposing the stone to chemicals such as household cleaners, ammonia, detergents or even cosmetics and perfumes. When storing the stone, take care to place it in a separate pouch or box. Aquamarines can scratch other materials that have lower hardness ratings and in turn get scratched by materials with higher hardness rankings, such as diamonds, sapphires or moissanite. Storing the gemstone separately ensures that this does not happen.

Aquamarine Meaning

Aquamarine has always been associated with calmness and cleansing. In the past, it was believed that aquamarine held magical and healing properties. People used to believe that water ‘infused’ with aquamarine could cure hiccups and other minor ailments.

Aquamarine was used by sailors to bring good luck during their voyages, due to its association with the color of the sea. It was also believed to give eternal youth to the wearer.

In the Middle Ages, aquamarines were commonly used for wedding rings and were believed to symbolize youth, happiness, and love.

*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.

Where to Buy Aquamarine Jewelry

When choosing aquamarine jewelry, always purchase from a reputable and trustworthy vendor with very good after-sales policies. The vendor should disclose any treatments or enhancements that the stone has undergone.

  • Etsy has an impressive range of aquamarine jewelry, to suit all styles and budgets. There’s a wide variety of designs and options here, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
  • Blue Nile’s aquamarine birthstone jewelry collection consists of beautiful, dainty every day pieces as well as glamorous cocktail jewelry. Blue Nile is known for their integrity, reasonable prices, and high quality, making them a good choice.
  • James Allen has an excellent aquamarine birthstone collection made using precious metals and diamonds.
  • Amazon has a wide and stunning range of aquamarine jewelry to suit all budgets and styles but it is imperative that you vet the retailer and the product prior to purchase.

To learn more about these retailers, check out our article on the top online retailers.

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