Birthstones: March - Aquamarine and Bloodstone
There is no denying that the minute the world awakens on the 1st of March, there is a renewed sense of hopefulness and rejuvenation in the air. Simply infectious, it is clear that we are all ready for spring!
March is blessed with two birthstones, the bright and beautiful Aquamarine, and the moody dark Bloodstone. Perhaps an unlikely pairing in the jewellery world, these two gems share the month of March, read on to find out more about these polarising beauties!
What makes an Aquamarine?
Aquamarine is a cyan version of Beryl. Its distinctive tone of blue is from the trace amounts of ferrous Iron. From blue-green to deep blue, there are a range of hues that Aquamarines can be.
Aquamarines are naturally found within granite rocks, often with other types of beryl. To be classified as an Aquamarine gemstone, the colour of the gemstone needs to be blue, yet greenish-yellow toned beryls is sometimes called chrysolite aquamarine.
The darker blue Aquamarines are known as maxixe, yet the saturation can fade when the Aquamarines are exposed to sunlight, or be intensified through irradiation.
Aquamarines can have both transparent and metallic inclusions, containing biotite, hematite, ilmenite, phlogopite, and pyrite. Aquamarines can also rarely have asterism and chatoyancy (cats-eye), which can significantly increase the price of the Aquamarine if present.
Today, the deeper the tone and the bluer the hue of Aquamarine is popular, meaning that those that are often found with some green tinting heat treated.
Raw Aquamarine, Source - Love Has Won
Where are Aquamarines mined?
Aquamarines are found naturally throughout the world, with their main sources in Wyoming (USA), Brazil, Colombia, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Malawi.
The premier source of Aquamarines in darker blue shades is in Madagascar.
The largest Aquamarine ever found was in the Marambia mine in Brazil in 1910, this weighed a whopping 243 pounds!
History and Significance of Aquamarine
The Roman Philosopher Pliny wrote: “The lovely Aquamarine, which seems to have come from some mermaid’s treasure house, in the depths of the summer sea, has charms not to be denied”.
The name ‘Aquamarine’ literally comes from the Latin aqua marinus, meaning “water of the sea”, as the colour of the gemstone is akin to the sparkling waves. The name and the hue of the gemstone, therefore, inspired many mythical ancient beliefs surrounding the gemstone.
For example, as Pliny states, it was believed that Aquamarines were the treasure of mermaids. Plus, it was also believed that Aquamarines could calm waves, offering sailors and voyagers safe travels over water. Many archaeological discoveries have found ancient Roman drinking chalices carved from Aquamarine itself.
Aquamarines were also heavily used in Ancient Greek art due to its beauty and mythical power.
Ancient Egyptians and Sumerians had the belief that Aquamarines were a symbol of happiness, granting everlasting youth and vitality to its owners.
Roman Aquamarine Ring with Portrait of Faustina Minor, Source - Christies
During the Medieval period, Aquamarines garnered more significance. In health, it was believed that Aquamarine could be an antidote to poisoning, as written in 1377 by William Langland. And, it was also believed that Aquamarine could help smoothen out relationship issues amongst married couples.
Today, Aquamarine’s stunning colour pertains to its popularity. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth I was gifted an Aquamarine necklace and earrings from the President of Brazil to honour her coronation. In fact, the Queen loved the pieces so much that she had a bracelet, brooch and tiara commissioned, to create a matching set.
Aquamarine on the MoHs hardness scale is an 8, meaning that it is a popular choice for engagement rings, notably being the main gemstone in the engagement ring of Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, which created a surge in Aquamarine engagement rings. Aquamarine’s delicate pale blue shade marries perfectly with Rose Gold, making this a sought after combination.
What makes a Bloodstone?
Bloodstone is an opaque dark green jasper with red inclusions of hematite, often also known as a heliotrope. A mineral aggregate, Bloodstone is a member of the Chalcedony family. Bloodstone can also have inclusions of chlorite, amphibole, and pyroxene which bolsters the green base tones of the Bloodstone.
Victorian 9ct Gold Bloodstone Locket, Source - Lillicoco
The highest regard of Bloodstones are those that are a deep dark green with a light splatter of sharply contrasting red dots, which is akin to the splatter of blood.
Where are Bloodstones mined?
Bloodstones are largely found in India, yet they also occur in Australia, Brazil, China, and Madagascar. Bloodstone is formed in shallow depths and low temperatures from silica-rich groundwaters and cavities.
Polished Bloodstone, Source - The Spruce
History and Significance of Bloodstone
Bloodstone’s striking appearance has cultivated a myriad of associations. Albert Magnus called Bloodstone the stone of Babylon, Pliny the Elder wrote that it was a stone of invisibility, and Damigeron in the 4th century wrote that Bloodstones had the power to create rainfall and solar eclipses.
Bloodstone Virgin Blachernitissa Cameos, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
Yet, the most powerful historical significance is the Christian belief that Bloodstone was created during Jesus’s crucifixion, with the hematite inclusions representing the blood of Christ. This meant that Ancient Roman Soldiers believed it had the power to stop bleeding wounds, meaning it was carried onto the battlefield. However, this superstition may have some scientific basis as when Bloodstone is is placed in cold water, the iron oxide present within the stone is an effective astringent.
Victorian 18ct Gold Bloodstone Signet Ring, Source - Lillicoco
Unlike other gemstones, Bloodstones have historically been largely used within men’s jewellery. A popular choice for signet rings and intaglios, many pieces of Bloodstone jewellery from the Ancient Romans to the Middle Ages has had carved scenes of crucifixitions, martyrs, heraldic crests, warrior cameos and mythological creatures. Signifying wealth, courage, success and power, Bloodstones were the appropriate gemstone for quintessentially masculine ideals and virtues.
General Tips on Buying and Maintaining both Aquamarine and Bloodstone
As the colour of Aquamarines has led to its popularity and the name of the stone itself, it won’t be surprising that the colour of the gemstone is paramount when purchasing. Typically you should look for a light blue tone with turquoise or greenish undertones. Gem experts prefer Aquamarines that have an even colour throughout with no lighter or darker patches. Generally, a more saturated blue tone is conducive to a higher price tag. However, heat-treated Aquamarines are often deeper in colour.
Different shades of Aquamarine, Source - John Bradshaw
Blue Topaz and Aquamarines can be mis-sold as one another. The best way to differentiate between these gemstones is through using a jeweller’s loupe and looking for two refraction lights which is an indicator of blue topaz. Sellers have used names like “Brazilian Aquamarine” and “Nerchinsk Aquamarine” for Blue Topaz and “Slam Aquamarine” for Blue Zircon.
Generally a more affordable semi-precious gemstone, Bloodstones are characterised by their colour and red inclusions. Clever sellers can deceive you with different names including Bottlestone and Fancy Jasper. Although Bloodstones are generally affordable, you should look for a true dark green shade, and irregular red inclusions, akin to the spattering of blood.
Like most beryls, Aquamarines are of a higher price and sought after with no eye-visible inclusions. By nature, most Aquamarines are eye-clean, and major inclusions are rare and often a sign of mistreatment.
As Bloodstones are opaque, their clarity in buying is not so much of an issue.
Higher priced Aquamarines are generally cut into Emerald and Oval faceted cuts as this ‘exposes’ more of the gemstone. However, Aquamarines exude brilliant sparkle in a variety of cuts, due to its impeccable transparency.
On the other hand, Bloodstones are often cut in cabochon cuts and are rarely faceted.
Generally an abundant gemstone, Aquamarines are found in a variety of carat sizes for affordable prices, usually being up to 20 carats in total.
Bloodstone can occur in large carats, and is generally a more affordable gemstone.
Bloodstone ranks as a 6 on the MoHs scale of hardness and Aquamarine is an 8, meaning that although these two are widely suited to jewellery, they need special attention and care. Clean these pieces with warm soapy water and avoid contact with harsh abrasive chemicals when wearing.
To see our Lillicoco antique Aquamarine jewellery and our Lillicoco antique Bloodstone jewellery, simply click on the links above to see how people in the past have interacted with these gorgeous gems!