Tuesday, June 25, 2024

What is the history of aquamarine?

The History of Aquamarine

Aquamarine, a gemstone renowned for its stunning blue hues reminiscent of the sea, has captivated human interest for centuries. Its name, derived from the Latin words “aqua” (water) and “marina” (of the sea), aptly describes its tranquil and mesmerizing color. This article delves into the multifaceted history of aquamarine, exploring its historical significance, geological formation, color and properties, mythology and lore, historical mining locations, famous aquamarines, and modern relevance.

Historical Significance

Aquamarine has a rich and varied history, playing significant roles in different cultures throughout the ages. The stone’s allure dates back to ancient civilizations, where it was prized for its beauty and purported protective powers.

Ancient Civilizations

In ancient Rome, aquamarine was believed to absorb the atmosphere of young love, making it a popular gift for brides. The Romans also thought that aquamarine could protect against the perils of the sea, which made it a favored talisman among sailors. Similarly, the Greeks associated aquamarine with Poseidon, the god of the sea, and used it as a symbol of safety and calm waters.

In Egypt, aquamarine was often buried with mummies to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife. The Egyptians also carved the stone into amulets and statues of their gods, believing in its ability to harness the power of the water and sky.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages, aquamarine was believed to possess medicinal properties. It was ground into powder and used to treat a variety of ailments, from eye disorders to digestive problems. Scholars and healers of the time also thought it could counteract poison and enhance the clarity of thought, making it a popular choice among intellectuals.

In the Renaissance period, aquamarine’s appeal continued to grow. It was often used in the elaborate jewelry and adornments of the European elite. The stone was also believed to inspire trust and harmony in marriages, further cementing its status as a wedding gift.

Color and Properties

The enchanting color and physical properties of aquamarine are central to its allure and value as a gemstone.

Color Variations

Aquamarine’s color ranges from pale blue to deep blue, with some stones exhibiting a greenish or bluish-green hue. The intensity of the color can be influenced by the amount and type of iron present in the crystal. Generally, the deeper the blue, the more valuable the stone. However, lighter stones with exceptional clarity and cut can also command high prices.

Clarity and Cut

One of the defining features of aquamarine is its clarity. Most aquamarines are relatively free of inclusions, making them highly transparent and brilliant when cut. The gemstone is typically cut into shapes that maximize its light reflection, such as emerald cuts, which are rectangular with stepped facets, or round and oval cuts.

Optical Properties

Aquamarine exhibits pleochroism, meaning it shows different colors when viewed from different angles. This property can enhance the stone’s visual appeal, as it may display variations of blue and green hues depending on the angle of the light. Aquamarine also has a refractive index of about 1.57 to 1.58, contributing to its brilliance.

Mythology and Lore

The myths and legends surrounding aquamarine are as captivating as the gemstone itself. Throughout history, aquamarine has been imbued with various symbolic meanings and attributed with mystical powers.

Ancient Beliefs

In ancient Greek mythology, aquamarine was considered the treasure of mermaids and was believed to bring good luck to sailors. It was said to calm the waves and keep sailors safe from the dangers of the sea. This belief in the stone’s protective powers extended to its use as a talisman against evil spirits and enemies.

Healing and Protective Powers

During the Middle Ages, aquamarine was thought to have healing properties. It was used to cure ailments of the throat, liver, and stomach. The stone was also believed to enhance the immune system and promote overall health and well-being. In addition, aquamarine was used as a protective stone to ward off poison and harmful influences.

Symbolism and Modern Lore

In modern times, aquamarine continues to be associated with tranquility, courage, and clear communication. It is often used in meditation practices to enhance spiritual awareness and inner peace. Aquamarine is also the birthstone for March, symbolizing youth, health, and hope. It is commonly given as a gift for 19th wedding anniversaries.

Historical Mining Locations

The discovery and mining of aquamarine have taken place in various parts of the world, each contributing to the gemstone’s storied history.


Brazil is the most significant source of aquamarine, with the country producing some of the finest specimens ever found. The first major discovery of aquamarine in Brazil occurred in the early 19th century in the state of Minas Gerais. Brazilian aquamarines are known for their clarity and vibrant blue color, and the region continues to be a major supplier to this day.


In the 18th century, Russia became known for its beautiful aquamarines mined in the Ural Mountains. The Russian aristocracy highly valued these stones, and they were often used in the creation of intricate jewelry pieces for the royal family. The Ural Mountains’ aquamarines were prized for their deep blue color and exceptional clarity.

Pakistan and Afghanistan

The mountainous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have yielded significant aquamarine deposits, particularly in the areas of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges. These stones are known for their striking blue color and are often found in large, well-formed crystals. Mining in these regions is challenging due to the rugged terrain and political instability, but the high quality of the gemstones makes the effort worthwhile.

See Also: The March 28th Birthstone

Other Notable Locations

Aquamarine can also be found in various other countries, including Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, and the United States. Each of these locations contributes unique qualities to the global supply of aquamarine, enriching the diversity of this beloved gemstone.

Famous Aquamarines

Several aquamarines have gained fame over the years, either due to their size, quality, or the historical significance of their owners.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine is one of the most famous aquamarines in the world. It is the largest cut aquamarine, weighing an impressive 10,363 carats (over 2 kilograms). The stone was discovered in Brazil in the 1980s and named after Brazil’s first two emperors, Dom Pedro I and Dom Pedro II. Renowned German gem cutter Bernd Munsteiner fashioned the stone into a magnificent obelisk-shaped sculpture, which is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Martha Rocha Aquamarine

Named after the Brazilian beauty queen Martha Rocha, this aquamarine is notable for its exceptional size and color. Discovered in Brazil, the stone weighed over 134 pounds (61 kilograms) in its rough form. After being cut and polished, it produced numerous gemstones of remarkable quality, cementing its place in the annals of gemstone history.

The Queen Elizabeth II Aquamarine

In 1953, the Brazilian government gifted a stunning aquamarine necklace and earrings set to Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate her coronation. The set featured large aquamarine stones of exceptional clarity and color, sourced from Brazil. The queen was so impressed with the gift that she later commissioned a matching tiara, which she often wore at state events.

The Hirsch Aquamarine

The Hirsch Aquamarine, named after the prominent gemstone dealer Murray Hirsch, is renowned for its impressive size and deep blue color. Weighing over 109 carats, this gemstone is one of the finest examples of aquamarine and is often showcased at gemstone exhibitions around the world.


Aquamarine’s journey through history is a testament to its enduring appeal and multifaceted significance. From ancient civilizations that revered it as a talisman of protection and healing, to modern times where it is cherished for its beauty and spiritual properties, aquamarine continues to captivate the human imagination. Its geological formation, diverse historical mining locations, and the famous specimens that have graced royal collections all contribute to its storied legacy. As we look to the future, aquamarine remains a symbol of tranquility, clarity, and timeless elegance, inspiring awe and admiration across cultures and generations.

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