Over the last few decades, aquamarine has easily become one of the most popular gemstones. Aquamarines are a variety of the mineral beryl, the same mineral species of which emeralds belong to. Unlike emeralds, which are known for their deep green color, aquamarines are notable for their crisp blue to green-blue color. Like emeralds, aquamarines have a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. The Roman philosopher Pliny once wrote that aquamarines came from mermaid treasures, and would bring about luck and charm. Roman fishermen were the first to name the gemstone aqua (water) marina (of the sea). As time has gone by and fashion and tastes continuously change, the aquamarine has only increased in popularity - primarily due to its bright and vibrant blue color, large size, and international appeal,
Like nearly all gemstones, the aquamarines biggest appeal factor is its color. It derives its color from the trace element iron in the beryl mineral. Blue is by far the most prominent color in aquamarine, though some are known to have green undertones and hues. While its sister stone, the emerald, is often known for its dark and sometimes heavily included appearance, aquamarines are notable in their bright, brilliant color and often eye-clean clarity. It has become a popular choice for engagement rings for those looking to add a splash of brilliant color but want it lighter than a sapphire.
Size availability has also played a large part in the popularity of aquamarine. Compared to other gemstones, lapidaries tend to find aquamarines easier to cut to bring out the natural color and sparkle. This allows cutters to preserve as much of the stone as possible, and therefore jewelers are able to offer generally much larger aquamarines at more attractive prices. This has made aquamarine very popular in the jewelry industry as customers continue to look for beautiful, eye-catching pieces that won't break the bank.
Another notable aspect of the aquamarine is its international popularity. It is especially popular in two of the world's largest markets - the United States and China. Blue is a very popular color in the United States, and many associate the bright blue of aquamarine with the famous Tiffany Blue of Tiffany and Co. In China, the aquamarine market is booming due to their mines. As China is able to source aquamarines themselves, it makes it much cheaper and more readily available. It has become a popular choice among high-volume stores and home shopping networks there.
On the Mohs scale of hardness, aquamarine ranks at an 8 out of 10, making it one of the hardest gemstones in the world.This durability and toughness, combined with an availability of large gemstones in the market, make aquamarine a very popular choice for those looking to set it in jewelry, especially engagement rings.
Aquamarine Quality and Pricing Factors
Unlike most gemstones, there are no individual grading systems for each quality of an aquamarine. Rather, there is a singular letter grade for the aquamarine overall. The basis of this letter grade (A-AAAA) are still the same qualities that nearly all gemstones are judged upon.
The quality of an aquamarine depends on three main factors: color intensity, clarity, and cut. Other qualities that factor into the quality of an aquamarine is its cut, weight, origin. As expected with any gemstone, the quality is directly correlated with the price.
As with most other gemstones, the color of an aquamarine is the most important quality factor and the main driver of value. Generally, the most desirable color is anywhere from green-blue to pure blue. It should be evenly distributed and highly transparent, with strong saturation.
Colored gems do not have a standardized grading system and it is extremely rare to find an aquamarine with no eye visible imperfections. This is in stark contrast to Diamonds who have a standardized grading system and utilize magnification to inspect clarity. In the wholesale trade we evaluate aquamarine clarity using the following methodology::
(1) Holding the aquamarine face up 12 inches from the observer's eye
(2) Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible
(3)Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)
Cut / Transparency
Lapidaries cut aquamarines according to the shade of the aquamarine rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the aquamarine to hold in more light and increase saturation. Although lapidaries find cutting aquamarines easier than other gemstones, it is an art and requires years of experience.
Carat / Measurements
The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts.). There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, an aquamarine can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the aquamarine. A deep cut 1 carat aquamarine will appear visually smaller than a 1 carat shallow aquamarine. For this reason, it is best to judge an aquamarine based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.
Click here for our Stone Size Chart which you can print to see the actual sizes of various shapes
Click here for our Stone Size Tool where you can input various measurements to see a basic rendering of centerstone sizes relative to your finger - particularly useful if you are planning to mount the gem in a ring.
Please Note: The carat weight listed on the website for pairs is the combined total weight of the two gemstones.
Aquamarines are mined in various locations around the world. All origins produce high and low quality gemstones. The origin of the aquamarines can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low quality aquamarines will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin.
Aquamarines from desired mines such as Brazil will carry a premium over aquamarines from other origins. Brazilian aquamarines, especially those from Minas Gerais, are particularly sought-after for their historical mines, excellent transparency, and incredible size. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increases. For most customers origin should not factor into the decision making process. All origins produce low, medium and high quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality of the gemstone you want than the origin.
Currently it is not possible for laboratories to determine if an Aquamarine is heat treated above ground or naturally underground. For this reason one should assume all Aquamarines are heat treated.
Overall Grading Value (AAAAA - A)
Many local jewelers use a letter grading system to educate their customers of quality. To assist our customers to relate to the jewelers grading system, we have provided an overall grade. Please see the full grading scale and description below:
||% of All Aqumarine
Fine quality gems that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand.
High quality gems that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.
These gems typically have medium to light color and moderate to slightly included eye clarity. They are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.
Aquamarines are easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your aquamarine jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build up. Here are a few care tips to keeping your aquamarine jewelry clean and shiny.
1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers and abrasives. Best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard impact activities that may scratch or chip the aquamarine such as exercising and gardening.
2) Clean your aquamarine by pouring lukewarm water in a bowl and mixing with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirty and residue is moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the aquamarine. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.
3) Store your aquamarine jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the aquamarine away from heat and direct sunlight. For every day rings (such as engagement rings), we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing and get tightened.
4) We highly recommend an annual maintenance on your aquamarine jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry professionally cleaned. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.