“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” In addition to describing the fluctuating month of March, this is just as true of the Pisces and Aries who claim aquamarine as their birthstone. Aquamarine literally means “water of the sea,” a fitting name for the transparent, blue-green variety of the mineral beryl – the same mineral that makes an emerald.
Ancient legend has it that the original aquamarine was a treasure hidden in a mermaid’s chest until it spilled out and was discovered by humankind. It was traditionally considered a good luck gem for sailors, signifying the sea’s blessing on extended voyages. Said to bring happiness to a new marriage and joy and wealth to any woman who wears it (similar to diamonds), aquamarine is rumored to gain potency by being immersed in sunlit water.
Aquamarines have been worn by kings and queens as far back as the Ancient Egyptians, who fashioned the stones into animal-shaped amulets that would protect their energy and personal strength. The Romans believed the gem would expose evil and cure anything from simple laziness to eye trouble, irregular breathing, and hiccups. In fact, the Roman emperor, Nero, is said to have used aquamarines as primitive eyeglasses to help him see, long before glass lenses existed. In the 19th century, Chinese artists carved bottles and sculptures from large, polished aquamarines.
The popularity of the aquamarine in North America may have begun with a heart-shaped stone given to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, as a wedding gift in 1906. Shortly after she was crowned Monarch of England in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a matched set of aquamarine jewelry.
The sea blue gemstone was originally mined in Madagascar, but today most of the finest aquamarines come from Brazil and Mozambique. The stones that are deepest in color, and thus most valuable, are named after the mines in which they were found, such as the Santa Maria aquamarine that was mined at Santa Maria de Itabira in Brazil.
Aquamarine occurs in a range of shades, from the palest sky blue to the cobalt blue of deep sea water. Its color is clear and even, with few marks or inclusions, and is flattering to almost every skin tone. The stone’s versatility has made it nearly as popular as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds for use in fashion and engagement jewelry. In general, the darker and bluer a stone is, the more valuable, so aquamarines of paler color or with a greenish tinge are less desirable.
In addition to serving as the birthstone for March, aquamarine is considered the official gemstone for the 19th wedding anniversary. It is said to strengthen the mind and bring out courage, and is also reputed to help couples overcome their differences and work toward a lasting, loving relationship.