We’re more than halfway through March and time is a-flying! To that end, I want to highlight March’s birthstone, aquamarine, today because, before we know it, we’ll be closing in on May all too soon!
A member of the beryl mineral family whose fellow beryl ‘siblings’ include emerald and morganite, aquamarine has been the modern birthstone for March since its adoption by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Owing its pale greenish, blue color to the presence of a small proportion of oxide of iron, the aquamarine has been made into jewelry as early as the Roman Republic where examples of earrings, ring and cameos have been found.
Extraordinary 18kt gold, platinum, diamond and aquamarine mermaid and merman ring. Beautifully hand-crafted, this expressive ring is set with an exceptional 27.87 ct. emerald cut aquamarine stone. Designed and made in-house by Julius Cohen New York.
With its watery blue, pale green hues and crystal clearness, the gem’s name, “aquamarine,” is derived from the Latin words for water (aqua) and sea (marina), or “water of the sea,” so it’s no coincidence that the aquamarine has long been associated with the ocean. Ancient legends claim that the aquamarine was found in a Mermaid’s treasure chest, as evidenced by the ancient philosopher Pliny, who 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.”
ROCK CRYSTAL, AQUAMARINE, SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND ‘MERMAID’ BROOCH, VERDURA, CIRCA 1945 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Believed to possess protective qualities, ancient Greek and Roman sailors were known to carry the gem with them on long voyages, ensuring the safe and prosperous passage across stormy seas. In the Christian era, the Apostle St. Thomas is identified by the aquamarine as it resembled the blue skies and sea he frequently journeyed by to preach salvation.
AQUAMARINE, RUBY AND DIAMOND BROOCH, DAVID WEBB – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Other popular associations of the aquamarine is that with love, marriage and everlasting youth. According to Roman beliefs, the gem was believed to absorb the atmosphere of young love and was frequently given to brides at weddings so that the auras of the newlywed bliss would blend in with the aquamarine, preserving and increasing their mutual love, confirmed by the Roman Camillus Leonardus, “it renders the bearer cheerful and increases and preserves married love.” During Medieval times, the aquamarine rekindled the love of married couples and was thus a popular gift to give on certain milestone wedding anniversaries.
An 18th century paste necklace
Composed of a line of oval mixed-cut “aquamarine” coloured pastes suspending a central pear shaped and circular paste four stone drop, to a velvet fastener, in gilt metal mounts with coloured foil backs. Photo c/o Christie’s
Similar to other gemstones in pre-modern medicine, the aquamarine was often used to cure certain ailments throughout history. The aforementioned ancient Roman Camillus Leonardus stated that “it cures distempers of the throat and jaws, and is good for indispositions of the live and disorders of the stomach.” In the dark about modern medicine, the Middle Ages often turned to gemstones for their supposed spiritual and healing powers. At the end of the eleventh century, Marbodus, the bishop of Rennes, wrote the influential Liber Lapidium (Book of Stones), in which he defined the magical qualities of sixty stones. William Langland’s “The Vision Concerning Piers and the Plowman,” from 1377, mentions the aquamarine as an antidote for poison.
Lustrous translucent rich-blue Aquamarine from Namibia. The color of these crystals are presumably natural. Collected in 2009.
Photo © www.johnbetts-fineminerals.com – All Rights Reserved.
During antiquity, Sri Lanka and Burma were major sources for aquamarine and, according to Pliny, it was also found in India and the Ural Mountains. Today, the major source of aquamarine, as well as the source of the finest specimens, is Brazil, where the crystals occur most commonly in pegmatites whose cavities allow the crystals to grow to large sizes. The finest aquamarines originate from the pegmatite deposits of the Minas Gerais region in Brazil, which is also where the largest ever aquamarine was found in 1910 with a weight of over 110 kg. Apart from Brazil, aquamarine can be found in the mines of Colombia, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi,Tanzania, Kenya, and Namibia.
Now for some extraordinary examples of the aquamarine, whether of remarkable in size, historic significance or simply exquisite in design.
Largest Cut Aquamarine: The Dom Pedro Aquamarine, on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s Musuem of Natural History
Beryl variety aquamarine; The Dom Pedro aquamarine; 10,363 cts; Pedra Azul, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Photo Credit: Donald E. Hurlbert, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Sotheby’s Catalogue Note on the following Cartier parure:
This parure was part of the jewellery collection of Olga Karnovich (1865-1929), Princess Paley, the second and morganatic wife of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia (1860-1919), Tsar Alexander III’s brother. Widowed in 1891, the Grand Duke later engaged in an open love affair with Olga Karnovich who was married to Erich von Pistohlkohrs at the time. The birth of their illegitimate son, Vladimir, and Olga’s subsequent divorce were major scandals among the Imperial entourage of St Petersburg. Upon learning of this, the Grand Duke’s nephew, Tsar Nicolas II, refused the couple permission to marry. Paul had to resign from his military duties and all his Russian properties were seized. The couple fled Russia and settled in an elegant town house near Paris where they married in 1902.
In 1904, Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria, granted Olga the title of Countess Hohenfelsen. In 1912, the Tsar finally recognised their marriage, gave Olga the title of Princess Paley, and allowed them to return to Russia.
The Grand Duke and his wife were frequent clients at Cartier’s premises on the Rue de la Paix during their Parisian exile. They ordered, in addition to the jewels on offer here, a pair of opera-glasses, a magnificent diamond tiara and a diadem of Greek design
FINE AND IMPORTANT AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND AIGRETTE TIARA, CARTIER, 1912 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
FINE AND IMPORTANT AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, CARTIER, 1912 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
FINE AND IMPORTANT AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND CORSAGE ORNAMENT, CARTIER, 1912 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
A diamond, sapphire and aquamarine Van Cleef & Arpels brooch in the form of an Oriental dragon with a flaming pearl in its mouth. Photo c/o Van Cleef & Arpels
PLATINUM, AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND BRACELET, CARTIER, LONDON, CIRCA 1930 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
From the Sotheby’s Catalogue Note of the above Cartier bracelet:
“According to Judy Rudoe in the exhibition catalogue Cartier: 1900-1939, much of Cartier’s aquamarine jewelry was made by the company’s London branch. Records from 1932 show a number of aquamarine and diamond pieces ordered not only for London clients but for Americans shopping at the London or Paris branches. One of the more interesting commissions came from Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, a highly successful decorator and a prominent figure in New York, Paris and London society. Upon arriving in New York in 1935, Lady Mendl posed for photographers, remarking that: ‘her hair was tinted aquamarine to match her latest acquisition, a curling spiral tiara of diamonds and aquamarines that she had commissioned from Cartier, her favorite jewelers’.
Author of the influential book The House in Good Taste, Lady Mendl was selected the Best Dressed Woman in the World by Parisian couturiers in 1935 at age 70.”
Belt necklace in aquamarine gems and rubies, designed by Fulco di Verdura for Paul Flato, New-York, circa 1935
Gold, Platinum, Aquamarine and Diamond ‘Wing’ Brooch, Verdura
Hemmerle earrings in patinated copper with aquamarines.
Paolo Costagli Large Aquamarine & Diamond Cocktail Ring – Photo c/o Betteridge
Large princess-cut aquamarine cocktail ring in an 18k white gold and partway pavé diamond-set shank. The aquamarine weighing 24.32 carats (20 x 20mm) and diamonds weighing 1.60 total carats. Size 6.5. Designed by Paolo Costagli.
Cartier collection bracelet in platinum with pear-shaped aquamarine, aquamarine beads, engraved moonstones, one Tahitian pearl and brilliant-cut diamonds.
AQUAMARINE, SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND RING, SUZANNE BELPERRON, 1950S – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
The Krafla necklace, from the Van Cleef & Arpels’ Les Voyages Extraordinaires collection, features diamonds and aquamarines aet in 18-karat white gold. Photo c/o Van Cleef & Arpels
AQUAMARINE, RUBY AND SAPPHIRE RING, LYDIA COURTEILLE – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND PENDANT-BROOCH, CIRCA 1880 – Photo Sotheby’s
The cushion-shaped aquamarine supporting a pear-shaped aquamarine pendant, weighing approximately 44.00 carats and 12.00 carats respectively, bordered by 48 old-mine and old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 9.00 carats, mounted in silver and gold, brooch fitting and pendant detachable.
GOLD AND AQUAMARINE NECKLACE, CIRCA 1830 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Aquamarine & Diamond Ring, David Webb circa 1960s
AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND PENDANT, HEMMERLE – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Seaman Schepps “Starfire” Aquamarine Cluster Earclips – Photo c/o Betteridge
“Starfire” aquamarine cluster earclips in 18k yellow gold, designed as a cushion-cut aquamarine surrounded by smaller pear-shaped aquamarines. Aquamarines weighing 12.18 total carats. With omega-style clip backs (posts may be added upon customer request). Individually numbered and signed by Seaman Schepps. 22mm length and 22mm width at widest point.
PLATINUM, AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND BRACELET, CIRCA 1935 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
The wide openwork strap of scroll and geometric design set with heart-shaped, oval, tapered baguette, round and bullet-shaped aquamarines weighing approximately 145.00 carats, within a ground of round and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 50.00 carats, length 7 inches, possibly Paul Flato.
An amazing Art Deco platinum and diamond Aquamarine Bow Brooch designed by Tiffany and Company. Set with very distinctive carved buff top gem aquamarines and over one carat of diamonds. Circa 1925
A French Retro Aquamarine & Diamond Brooch by Suzanne Belperron
Hemmerle earrings in silver, iron, and white gold, with sapphires and aquamarine.
BELLE EPOQUE AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND TIARA, CIRCA 1910 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Designed as a series of graduated oval aquamarine clusters set with oval- and hexagonal-shaped aquamarines, interspersed with sprays of diamond myrtle leaves, within millegrain borders of circular-, single- and rose-cut diamonds,
inner circumference approximately 370mm, fitted red leather and gilt tooled case.
Temple St. Clair Green Tourmaline & Aquamarine “Mermaid” Cuff Bracelet – Photo c/o Betteridge
Green tourmaline and aquamarine “Mermaid” cuff bracelet in 18k yellow gold. Oval-shaped green tourmaline weighing 8.55 total carats and oval-shaped aquamarine weighing 4.90 total carats. Hinged. Designed by Temple St. Clair. 60mm inner diameter (approximately 2.4″) and 25.5mm cuff width at widest point in front (approximately 1″).
Aquamarine Diamond Pendant Ear Clips, Buccellati
Cartier Art Deco aquamarine and diamond necklace/brooch • Image Source: Kathryn Bonanno • via Deborah Dickinson’s Jewels – Aquamarine board on Pinterest
AQUAMARINE AND GOLD OPEN BANGLE, ‘TRANCHE’, RENÉ BOIVIN – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
TIFFANY & CO., SCHLUMERGER, Gold & Platinum, Diamond & Aquamarine “Bird on the Rock” Brooch. Photo c/o Cohen and Pariser, Ltd.
This iconic design of Tiffany & Co. consists of 70 round diamonds weighing approximately 3.50 carats accented by a polished gold beak, head feather and legs with one small ruby eye, perched atop one cushion-shaped aquamarine approximately 46.25 carats, 18Kt and platinum; signed Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger
Paolo Costagli Mirror-Cut Aquamarine & Pink Sapphire Ring – Photo c/o Betteridge
Aquamarine and pink sapphire cocktail ring in 18k white gold, the shanks partway set with diamonds. Mirror-cut aquamarine weighing 6.07 carats, two half moon-shaped pink sapphires weighing 1.03 total carats and round-cut diamonds weighing 0.18 total carats. Handcrafted in New York City. Designed by Paolo Costagli. Size 6.5.
Van Cleef & Arpels, A Pair of Aquamarine and Diamond Ear Clips, each designed as a cluster of circular-cut aquamarines, accented by circular-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum, signed Van Cleef & Arpels, numbered NY12592, circa 1947. Photo c/o FD Gallery
Raymond C. Yard Oval-Cut Aquamarine & Diamond Ring – Photo c/o Betteridge
Aquamarine ring in platinum with diamond side stones. Oval-cut aquamarine weighing 17.49 carats flanked by two shield-shaped diamonds weighing 0.80 total carats, two triangular-shaped diamonds weighing 0.15 total carats, four baguette-cut diamonds weighing 0.23 total carats, and thirty-two round brilliant cut diamonds weighing 0.35 total carats (1.53 carats of diamonds total). Signed Yard. Re-sizable.
Bulgari Aquamarine and Sapphire Ear Clips, designed in 18k yellow gold with a center square cut aquamarine and accented with sapphires, stamped Bulgari, with markers marks, no. 1083, c. 1990 – Photo c/o FD Gallery
Cartier Platinum, one 236.27-carat aquamarine, one natural pearl, facetted aquamarine beads, baguette-cut diamonds, brilliants
GOLD AND AQUAMARINE NECKLACE AND PAIR OF MATCHING GIRANDOLE PENDANT-EARRINGS, CIRCA 1830 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
Aquamarine and Diamond ‘Wrapped Heart’ Brooch, Verdura
AQUAMARINE AND SAPPHIRE DRESS RING, CARTIER – Photo c/o Sotheby’s
A PAIR OF ART DECO DIAMOND AND AQUAMARINE EAR PENDANTS, BY CARTIER – Photo c/o Christie’s
Similar in design to the Maltese crosses Verdura used on Coco Chanel’s iconic cuffs, the cruciform motif appears here as a brooch. Made in Paris in the late 1940s for Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers, the brooch centers a very fine French-cut aquamarine surrounded by 21 round diamonds and 112 channel-set sapphires. Circa 1948.
Platinum, Diamond and Aquamarine Brooch and Earclips, Circa 1940. Photo c/o Sotheby’s
GOLD, AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND RING, GRIMA, 1976 – Photo c/o Sotheby’s