March Birthstone - Aquamarine

Those born in March are fortunate to have two traditional birthstones to select from: aquamarine and bloodstone. Aquamarine is the better known of the two and is a blue or blue-green variety of the mineral Beryl. This mineral also has gem varieties in green (Emerald), pink (Morganite), yellow (Heliodor), and clear (Goshenite). Other colored examples of Beryl usually just use the color name in their identification, such as Red Beryl. The red variety was involved in a controversy a few years ago when attempts were made to market it as Red Emerald.

It is the blue variety known as Aquamarine, which is associated with March birthdays. The name derives from Latin, and translates as “water of the sea”, and its color range varies, from a light greenish blue through deeper and rarer “true blue” varieties, which can vary in hue and intensity. It is a beryllium aluminum silicate, colored by traces of iron. Unlike its green cousin, Emerald, a large amount of Aquamarine is free from distracting inclusions. Material that has more inclusions is often turned into beads or cabochon cut stones. It is a hard, rather durable stone, with a hardness of 7.5-8 on the Moh’s scale. Most cleaning methods are safe, such as ultrasonic and steam, as long as the stone is relatively free from natural inclusions.

Brazil is the major source of Aquamarine, with Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sri Lanka also contributing a significant number of stones, some in deeper colors, which rival the finest South American, stones. Pakistan and China have become important sources for the stone in recent years. The majority of the Chinese stones appear to be in the paler color range.

Much Aquamarine is heat-treated. When iron is present in colorless or greenish Beryl, this material may produce a blue color when heated. Treatment is permanent. A Maxixe Beryl variety occurs in blue, and is sometimes sold as Halbanite. It can be separated from Aquamarine by spectral analysis and sometimes from the color. The blue of this stone does fade over time.

Aquamarine occasionally has a cat’s eye effect, although it is rather weak. Some beryls have been reported with asterism, appearing as a weak 6-pointed star. We are unaware of any examples of the Aquamarine variety showing this phenomenon.

Other gems that are often confused with Aquamarine include Blue Topaz, synthetic blue Quartz, and synthetic Spinel. The synthetic Spinel has been used in birthstone pieces for years, and often imitates the finest color available in natural Aquamarine. If you encounter a large fine blue stone like this in an inexpensive setting, you will want to examine the possibility that it is a simulated Aquamarine of this composition. Ultraviolet testing is a relatively easy separation for this imitation. It fluoresces under LW and SW ultraviolet lighting, while Aquamarine appears inert. Blue Topaz has some different optical properties from Aquamarine and often can be identified by these, with either the naked eye or magnification. Blue Topaz is also a rather new arrival on the jewelry scene, in any quantity, and is rarely seen in older jewelry pieces. Blue glass of appropriate color is used in many costume pieces to mimic Aquamarine. All these stones may be separated from Aquamarine by measurement of the refractive index of the stone or by spectral analysis.

Aquamarine is also the birthstone for Pisces, and this sea colored gem is an appropriate stone for those born under this water sign.

Bloodstone, cryptocrystalline Chalcedony quartz, is opaque or slightly translucent, with a dark greenish body color, which is nearly black in some cases. It has flecks of red or reddish brown color throughout, caused by the presence of iron. Some stones will exhibit a wider range of color than this, but are often referred to as fancy Jaspers.
Bloodstone is sometimes referred to by its traditional Greek-derived name, Heliotrope.

The stone was associated in legend with the crucifixion of Christ, the colors representing blood shed on the green earth and as a result the stone was carved to depict religious scenes such as the crucifixion.

It was popular in Victorian times as well, and is seen more than many other stones in jewelry items for the Victorian man. It has also been associated with the healing of blood disorders, for rather obvious reasons.

India and Australia are probably the major world producers of Bloodstone, but the United States, China, and Brazil also known sources.

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