Aquamarine, means literally "sea water" in Latin, and the gem so named is the most common representative of beryl, a group of minerals whose most respected representative is the emerald. What distinguishes aquamarine from the others is the presence of iron in the crystal grid of beryl, but actually, all the representatives of this family are true brothers. The best aquamarines today come from Brazil with the largest specimens, ‘Estrela de Alva’, excavated at a site in Marta Rocha, and the Papamel aquamarine, which was dug up in 1910 at the Batadal mine in Minas Gerais, weighs a record 110 kg. One of the largest ever, near-flawless aquamarine crystals is the Don Pedro aquamarine, found in 1993 in Minas Gerais, and weighing 10,395 carats (24.875 grams).



Brazil's principal aquamarine region begins about 75 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, and the small town of Teofilo Otoni in Minas Gerais is a major Brazilian gem-trading centre known for its aquamarine. Major aquamarine mines in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais are the Papam Mine, Mine Batadal and Santa Maria de Itabira.

The Brazilian aquamarine of a paler blue is referred to as ‘Espirito Santo’. which means ‘the Holy Spirit, and is also the name of a state in Brazil.



In ancient Greece, sailors wore talismans of the god of sea Poseidon carved in aquamarine, in order to protect themselves on distant voyages. One such stone was worn by Jason when he went in search of the Golden Fleece with his Argonauts, and another by Theseus in his quest for the country of the Amazons when navigating the treacherous currents of the Black Sea which destroyed so many ships. In those times, the aquamarines of turquoise-green colour, seeming to reflect the colours seen in shallow waters, were the most highly valued; whereas today, blue aquamarines are considered more valuable, perhaps as seafarers can more easily sail along deeper, bluer sea routes in sturdier vessels. As the seas sailed became deeper and a darker blue, the corresponding stones have mounted further in value.



Unlike its more famous brother, the emerald, the aquamarine is often perfect. Some of the large pieces have been cut almost without inclusions or flaws, sometimes weighing up to several hundred carats. As this stone is very popular with jewellery craftsman, its value per carat does not grow with a higher number of carats, as is the case with most other gemstones. But despite the clarity of the aquamarine, peculiar inclusions do add extraordinary beauty and value to these gems. Inclusions that appear on a carefully cut aquamarine give the effect known as cat's eye and star aquamarine. The latter is very rare, and so extremely valuable.