“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.”Pliny the Elder
The sea is both a muse and a resource to the world of jewellery. You get pearls. You get shells. You get seaglass. Then comes inspiration for nautical elements in jewellery like pendants or charms of ships, anchors, sailor wheels and fish. You also get mythological gods and beasts. And finally, you get a gemstone that represents the sea even if it’s not from it: Aquamarine, known as a sailor’s protector and a seer’s clarifier of visions.
St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall is a beautiful place to ponder about aquamarine because there are similarities in legends and lore of both the isle and the gemstone.
According to the tales, mermaids would lure the ships to crash into rocks, but St Michael would secure their safe passage, hence the name of the island, St Michael’s Mount.
But what if one is to encounter a devious mermaid not in the vicinity of St Michael’s Mount? Not a problem if you have an aquamarine in your pocket. A protector of seamen, this gem is here to ensure nothing bad happens to those traveling by sea.
There is more to know about this gem. Let’s dive right in.
What is an aquamarine?
The name of this stone comes from two Latin words: water or aqua and sea or marina. Aquamarines are the blue-green variety of beryl. You are more familiar with beryl than you realise. Both emeralds and morganites are also colour-specific beryls. This means that all of these stones come from the same family, but because of the variety in colour what makes them valuable differs.
Aquamarines are transparent to opaque, with the most valued hue in the industry being an intense deep blue. These stones do not sparkle with the same intensity as diamonds, so if you choose it for an engagement ring, you will need to clean it often to maintain its shine. On Mohs scale of hardness these sea-blue gems score a 7-8, making them durable and a great choice for jewellery from the you’re-not-bothered-to-take-it-off category. But of course, as with any gemstone – avoid harsh chemicals and labour intensive tasks. I’d keep hammers away from gems I am keen on preserving.
Where do aquamarines come from?
Aquamarines are aluminium beryllium silicates, and are mined in Brazil, Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan, and Mozambique. But that’s according to chemistry. According to legend however, aquamarines have come to us straight from mermaids. Fallen out of a treasure chest, deep under the sea, and into the lap of sailors, this stone has been seen as a ticket to safety and calm waters.
Legends and lore about aquamarine through the ages
Romans believed that aquamarine was Neptune’s stone. Who can blame them? The gem looks like the sea solidified into a crystal on a sunny day. Roman fishermen and anyone trying to cross the seas would merit from having an aquamarine handy, as the belief was that aquamarine had been infused with Neptune’s energy and could help control the weather at sea.
Going into Biblical times, aquamarine was seen as the stone of Apostle Thomas as he crossed the Mediterranean sea when spreading the Good Word – and who knows, he may have had an aquamarine with him.
As we go into the dark ages, while aquamarine is still referenced when the talk turns to water, an overwhelming trend grows that it can also see into the heavens. You know, because the sky is also blue.
If you were to book a session with a seer in medieval times, you’d most likely see an aquamarine in mystical action. Imagine a bowl of water with words and letters written around the rim. The gem is suspended on a thread above the water, just grazing it as it travels from letter to letter, spelling out your prophecy. You are asking questions, and the aquamarine is giving you answers, ouija board style. After your session, with the aquamarine exhausted, the fortune teller would dunk it into water overnight to restore its powers so that it can resume being the oracle’s main helper the very next day.
Meanwhile, you have probably heard seers using crystal balls to peek into the future. Allegedly, they used a variety of crystals but not one was as clear and precise as an aquamarine. This metaphysical practice has stayed around until the present day.
Of course, aquamarines have been used in jewellery throughout history, with some royalty being extremely keen on having the blue gem in their crowns, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain is a great example of a monarch who has a whole aquamarine set gifted to her by the country of Brazil.
An interesting mention is the Crown of Saint Wenceslas which was commissioned in 1347 for the coronation of Charles IV, the king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. While it boasts a whole range of gems, it is the aquamarine that brings it mysterious powers. The saying goes that if a tyrant is to place the crown on their head, they will pass within a year. Fast forward to the Second World War when Nazi SS officer Reinhard Heydrich put the crown on his head during one of his routine looting activities. Within a year the people of what now is Czechia were able to assassinate him. Coincidence or aquamarine in action?
If you are born in March, aquamarine is your birthstone. The association with the metaphysical side of aquamarine’s history is not as prevalent, unless you are specifically seeking out information about the gemstone’s legends and lore. These days aquamarine is seen as a stunning alternative to a diamond when it comes to engagement rings, and also as a spectacular gem to wear and to cherish. Aquamarines may not be for everyone’s wallet, and they do have their own alternatives: Blue topaz and blue moissanite can help you achieve that beautiful look for a more budget-friendly price.
Did you know about aquamarine’s unusual magic past? Do you have any pieces with the gemstone? And the most important question: Will you try the medieval water in the bowl method to predict the future? I am so tempted.