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Aquamarine history

Aquamarine is the birthstone for the month of March. The seawater color of aquamarine has given this gemstone its name as the name “aquamarine” is derived from the Latin word for seawater. The specific term “aquamarine” was apparently used in an important gemological work by Anselmus de Boodt in his Gemmarum et Lapidum Historiia,” published in 1609. Aquamarine is a valued gem of ancient lineage. In the 19th century, sea green varieties of the stone were the most popular, but today, the more blue the color, the more valuable the stone. In 1910, the largest ever aquamarine was found in Brazil, weighing 243 pounds. It was then cut into smaller stones, yielding over 200,000 carats.

There are many myths and legends about the aquamarine stone. The Romans believed that if the figure of a frog were carved on an aquamarine, it served to reconcile enemies and make them friends. Another Roman legend stated that the stone absorbs the atmosphere of young love: “When blessed and worn, it joins in love, and does great things.” Aquamarine was also considered the most appropriate morning gift to give to a bride by her groom following the consummation of their marriage. The Greeks and the Romans knew the aquamarine as the sailor’s gem, ensuring the safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. In Medieval times, the stone was thought to reawaken the love of married couples. It was also believed to render soldiers invincible.

The Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hebrews also admired and valued aquamarine greatly. It was a symbol of happiness and everlasting youth. In the Christian era, the aquamarine was identified with the Apostle, St. Thomas, because it “imitated the sea and the air” and the Saint “made long journeys by sea, even to India, to preach salvation.” Identifying a certain jewel with one of the twelve apostles was a common practice at that time. William Langland’s “The Vision Concerning Piers and the Plowman,” from 1377, mentions the aquamarine as an antidote for poison. This antidote was widely known throughout Europe. Because there was a wide amount of poisonings amongst royalty at the time, the gem was in popular demand just for that purpose. It was not necessary to pulverize the stone, as it was/ is with other gemstones. Simply wearing the stone as a pendant or in a ring was just as effective.

Writers of the middle Ages claimed aquamarine was the most popular and effective of the “oracle” crystals. When cut as a crystal ball, it was thought to be a superior stone for fortune telling. Many methods of using the stone as a divining tool were described in ancient literature. One method involved hanging a stone by a thread over a bowl of water, just touching the surface. The inner edge of the bowl was covered with the characters of the alphabet. The diviner was to hold the top of the thread and allow the stone to hit certain letters, which would spell out answers to an important question, sort of like a ouija board. Another method was to cast a crystal into a bowl of pure water. The disturbances in the water would reveal messages on the surface of the liquid. Aquamarine’s powers of revelation were also said to help one in search for lost or hidden things.

According to folklore, aquamarine would bring victory in battles and legal disputes. The gem was also credited with curing belching and yawning and was considered especially effective for curing ailments of the jaws, throat, stomach, liver and toothaches. Aquamarine was also used in ceremonies in the belief that it would bring rain when needed, or visit drought upon their enemies. When worn as an amulet, it was believed to bring relief of pain and to make the wearer friendlier, quicken the intellect and cure laziness. The ancient philosopher Pliny paid tribute to this gem of vitality, stating, “the lovely aquamarine, which seems to have come from some mermaid’s treasure house, in the depths of a summer sea, has charms not to be denied.”

Do you know why aquamarine is considered the gem of the sea? Or why aquamarine is one of the favorite gems of jewelry designers and gemstone artists? Explore our collection of information about aquamarine and aquamarine jewelry throughout history. Discover the cultural and religious history of aquamarine, the physical properties of aquamarine, and learn how to care for your aquamarine jewelry.
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