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Monday, February 20, 2012

Aquamarine as a Gemstone

Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family of gemstones that is usually colored various shades of blue/green or may appear as either light green or even as dark blue stones rivaling sapphire in color.  The mineral is a beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate with the formula Be3Al2(SiO3)6Terminated crystals of beryl are relatively rare, but are known to occur.  The stone has a value as a gemstone, and is a common ore of the metal beryllium.  In the case of aquamarine a small amount of iron that causes crystal defects in the crystal is the cause of its color.  The mineral beryl because of impurities in the crystal does occur in several different colors including green blue, yellow, red and white.

Aquamarine in a matrix of feldspar crystals.and other minerals including schorl the black crystal in the middle of the specimen.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky

The colors of aquamarine can range from light blue like that of the sky to a deep blue of the sea.  The darker the color the higher the price some aquamarines can sell for as much as $2,000 per caret although lighter stones only fetch a few dollars per carat.  The stone itself is fascinatingly beautiful with much appeal to women all over the world because it can complement or eye color.  For creative gemstone cutters it is an inspiration because of its ability to be cut in so many designs and still keep its beauty.

A water etched crystal of aquamarine from Brazil
Photo by Rob Lavinsky

Aquamarine is epitomized by its blue color, and the deeper blue the color the more expensive the stone making it one of the most popular stones rivaling at times its more expensive cousin emerald that also belongs to the beryl family.  The stone is hard enough at Mohs hardness of 7.5 to 8 so it can be used in most types of jewelry making it almost as popular as the classic stones emerald, ruby and sapphire.  In reality aquamarine is related to the emerald, but unlike its more famous cousin it usually free of flaws.  One flaw that is sometimes seen in aquamarine is long thin tubes that sometimes lend to its beauty in the form of chatoyancy forming tiger eyes or more rarely a star stone much like star sapphire.  Both forms of the stone command very high prices.

An example of a pear shaped aquamarine faceted gem.
Photographer Unknown

The color of aquamarine is caused by ions of iron causing crystal defects in the mineral beryl that is normally clear that is called goshenite my mineralogists because its type locality is in Goshen, Massachusetts were it is found in lithium bearing pegmatites.  Aquamarine can range from a pale blue to a strongly colored sea blue.  In some aquamarines you can see a light greenish simmer that is a typical feature of the stone.  Thee most prized color however is a pure clear blue transparent stone bringing out the transparency and shine of this magnificent stone.