Aquamarine – Shades of the Sea

Aquamarine’s name is taken from the ocean, literally “Water of the Sea”, and like the ocean it exhibits a range of different colours which affect the overall appearance of any jewellery it inhabits, as well as its value.

Colour and Value

Blue and Green Aquamarine Pendants

As with many precious gems it is those stones with the most vibrant and deep colouration which have the most value. The deepest blues (often described as dark blue, or double blue) are the bright colour of Caribbean waters and command the highest price tag. Green-blue aquamarines can range in colour from a slight tint to a bright teal, and are prized for their rarity and the subtle difference in character to the less green stones.

The variation in colours can be very slight, especially in antique aquamarine which has not been subject to any special treatments. All aquamarines are opaque, making them a great deal brighter than deeper blue stones such as blue sapphire or tanzanite, and ideally suited for pairing with diamonds and bright metals like white gold and platinum.

At Antique Jewellery Online we love aquamarines, so we’ve put together the following guide to help you get to know these brilliant stones.

What are Aquamarines?

Two Aquamarine Cocktail rings

Aquamarines are the light blue variant of beryl, the same mineral which gives us a whole array of precious stones. In aquamarine it is traces of iron which give it its colour, and different isotopes of the same elements give us golden beryl. When chromium or vanadium is present it gives us the deeper green of the emerald, although this also makes the material much more brittle, meaning that almost all natural emeralds have inclusions and are more fragile than other types of beryl.

If traces of manganese are present then the beryl forms a pink stone named Morganite, a remarkable rare material sometimes described as “rose beryl”. Colourless variants also exist, in the form of a mineral named goshenite, which is often completely free from inclusions and was used for making lenses for eyeglasses.

Rarest of all is red beryl, sometimes referred to as “red emerald” (although it is now illegal to refer to it by this name in the United States). This material, technically named “bixbite” after the mineralogist Maynard Bixby, is only found in a handful of locations in the United States and Mexico, and was not discovered until 1904, so only a handful of vintage pieces exist.

Antique and Vintage Aquamarines

Antique Aquamarine and Diamond Ring

Aquamarines have been crafted into jewellery for centuries, and each successive era has applied its own style to the type, features and fittings of fine jewellery.

The Georgian period was known for working with high-carat gold, as the stronger, low-carat golds had not yet been perfected. This meant that many Georgian pieces used foil backing, where a thin layer of precious metal was laid over the back of the stone to reflect light back through it and increase its brightness. This was due to the fragility of high carat gold, but as new materials began to become available later eras began to adapt to their use.

Victorian jewellers worked with lower carat, stronger gold alloys, and began to open up the metalwork of their pieces, creating pieces of aquamarine jewellery with smaller, less intrusive galleries that allowed open spaces for the light to pass through the stone. This was accompanied by more elaborate engraving and wire metalwork that led to the creation of more technically accomplished pieces.

In the Edwardian era you can see the forerunners of the Art Deco period, with larger and more impressive stones being used, in keeping with the Edwardian fixation on opulence and excess. Aquamarine’s brightness made it well suited to these arrangements, and elements of this design style found their way into Art Deco pieces, where the aquamarine founds incredible popularity.

Art Deco jewellers shied away from the more elaborate metalwork of previous eras, preferring to construct geometric designs with a more “modern” look. These pieces relied on the quality of the materials – presenting much larger, flawless aquamarines in the newly popular material white gold, but also embracing platinum to create extremely high quality pieces that mixed the opulence of the materials with the simplicity and strength of the designs; letting the stones take centre stage.

Modern Aquamarine

Modern Aquamarine Cocktail Ring

Like many gemstones Aquamarine can be treated to magnify its natural colouration. The colour fades when the stone is heated, but when irradiated it becomes darker. Some modern aquamarine jewellery contains stones which have been irradiated, and may even contain synthetic aquamarine which has been grown in a laboratory.

The technology required to perform these procedures is a recent invention, so antique and vintage aquamarine jewellery will contain only naturally coloured aquamarines.

Style and Meaning

Aquamarine’s consisted popularity stems from the fact that it is both extravagant and understated. The stones can be extremely large, often many carats in weight, and are free from flaws. They are extremely well suited to emerald cuts, which are simpler than many other cuts, and showcase this quality without the need for more complex cuts. This purity is paired with subtle but bright colouration, and this ethos is often carried through to the metalwork of a piece of jewellery, particularly in Art Deco jewellery.

In choosing a stone with subtle colouration, but which is evidently of such high quality, the aquamarine allows a kind of self-effacing, effortless beauty.

Whilst the aquamarine can shine on its own many jewellers choose to bracket the main stone with an array of diamonds. This creates a more intricate shimmering of light that creates a more overtly opulent effect that complements a more extroverted style.

Aquamarine Pendant with Diamonds

Aquamarine is also the birthstone for March, making it a wonderful gift for those born with the star sign Pisces or Aries. It is said to be an intrinsically peaceful stone, providing healing and calming energies to those who wear it.

At Antique Jewellery Online we have amassed a collection of beautiful aquamarine rings using the expertise of our skilled and experienced buyers. Each piece has been thoroughly inspected to ensure that it represents the very finest craftmanship from its era. If you are looking for aquamarine jewellery why not check out our collection of aquamarine rings and pendants.

Do you have questions? Our team are always happy to help in any way they can. Just get in touch via email at enquiries@antiquejewelleryonline.com or give us a call on England: +44 (0) 333 700 4500.