July 17, 2024

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March Birthstone: The Mysterious Tale of Aquamarine’s True Blue Color | Jewelry

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True Blue Imitation Aquamarine

Because a green-less blue aquamarine has been considered the ideal, imitation aquas—like those often seen in inexpensive birthstone rings—are usually created in that “true blue” color. Today those imitations are often cubic zirconia. At one time, they were synthetic spinel.

I bring this up because, many years ago, before heat treatment of aqua became widespread, an acquaintance showed me her new birthstone ring at dinner. The ring was set with an intense, medium-toned stone—the “aquamarine” her husband had “finally” bought her. Why, she asked, are some aquamarine stones so dark?

Her husband, who had been holding forth about something a few seats away, overheard her and suddenly became very quiet.

With good reason: it was obvious the stone was a synthetic blue spinel, not a natural aquamarine. The imitations had a very distinct, very hard-looking intense medium-blue color that looked nothing like a natural colored aqua.

It was clear to me from her husband’s sudden silence that he knew the stone in her ring was a $2 imitation, not a natural aqua that would have cost many times that.

So what to say?

It’s said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. This was a moment when it got me out of a very sticky situation. I decided to bury her question in a blizzard of facts. I told her about chemical composition and how different elements in a gemstone can cause different colors, and that emerald was a beryl, too, and . . . .  At that point, her eyes glazed with that TMI (too much information) look. She smiled and turned to talk to someone else. Her husband started to talk again, convinced that I hadn’t spotted the impostor and his secret was safe from discovery.

Until now.

Do you prefer true blue aquamarines, or do you like a green hue?

Related: How a Record-Breaking Aquamarine Crystal Escaped Brazil and Became the Dom Pedro

Originally published 3/27/2018. Updated 3/13/2023.


Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.

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