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Journey to the Stone - Aquamarine




Today in this episode of Journey to the Stone, we talk about Aquamarine. Aquamarine is the brother of the world-famous Emerald. Now, Beryl is the mineral species that Aquamarine comes from, as well as Emerald, as well as Morganite, as well as Heliodor. So, the main mineral species is Beryl. Now, we find Beryl in all different types of situations. We find it in pegmatite host rock. We find it in, you know, different environments, like what you will experience when you find Colombian Emerald in, for example, up in the Boyacá highlands. That's through a volcanic event. Right, where, you know, all different situations.

But Beryl is something that is found in all different color types. So green being Emerald, blue being the Aquamarine, pink being Morganite, you know, then you've got white, which is the Goshenite variety. Which, I mean, I've found some amazing white Beryl’s up in the Himalayas—very, very rare, but they disperse like diamond. Now, what's interesting about Beryl is not only that it comes in all the colors. It is one of the most worn and popular gemstones in the world, because Emerald—being one of the big four—a lot of people wear Emerald as a ring every day, or they wear it as a special collectible piece. And it does fetch one of the highest prices per carat out of all gemstones in the world.

Aquamarine, the brother of Emerald. Where do we start? All right, so Aquamarine goes back historically hundreds and hundreds of years. If you look at the scriptures historically, you'll see that Aquamarine is referenced back to the Maharajas, back historically in a lot of different situations. But Aquamarine—the key with this particular gem—let's take you to some of the most producing locales in the world. Aquamarine comes heavily out of Brazil. Now, why? Brazil has a lot of pegmatite host rock. Now, pegmatite host rock is something that is created through a volcanic event. So what happens is magma comes up. Magma comes up from the Earth's mantle, goes into the Earth's crust. Then what happens with pegmatite is that magma gets trapped in the Earth's crust and starts to cool down. When magma cools down, it creates mass amounts of heat, mass amounts of steam. And then, if you have the trace elements’ presence that create Beryl, it's exactly the same way Tourmaline is formed as well. But if you have those trace elements present like Beryllium, etcetera, that creates Beryl, Beryl crystals will grow.

Now what's interesting about the Brazilian materials: it comes in a whole different array of colors. Aquamarine from Brazil comes from borderline white, all the way to the most important Aqua in the world, the Santa Maria variety. I'll take you through the different situations. So when you're down, for example, in Teófilo Otoni, in the market where they cut a lot of the aquamarine—Teófilo Otoni, Brazil, in Minas Gerais—when you're there, you'll see a whole variety of Aquamarine. You'll see some light colors that range anywhere between $50 to $100 a carat, riding all the way up to the Santa Maria, where they can ask thousands and thousands per carat. And it really depends on the saturation of color, the clarity, etc., because vivid blue or deep blue Aquamarine is extremely rare. I mean, when you're talking about rare, it's rare to the point where it's like, one gram per 100,000 kilos in circulation globally is really vivid blue. So it is not something that is common; it's not something that is seen.

If you go to the majority of the mining deposits that produce Aquamarine, you get more of the light to medium range, and that particular material dominates the global supply. So if you look at all the retail shops across the world, you’ll most likely find Aquamarine present within most retailers across the world, because it is like the five flavors of ice cream. You know, we also have the five flavors of gemstones. We have Garnet, you know, Garnet being the red variety; Peridot, the green variety… Aquamarine does the blue variety. We got Amethyst, which is the purple, and Citrine, which is the yellow; that is the five flavors. So Aquamarine is one of the world's most known gemstones, as well as one of the world's most worn gemstones. And it is globally famous. But when you enter the world of Santa Maria—that's a whole other beast. It's a whole other situation.

So a lot of Aquamarine coming out of Minas Gerais, that's predominantly where the material comes out of Brazil. Now, you also find Aquamarine in Nigeria. There are host rocks and pegmatite discoveries in Nigeria that we find Aquamarine in. We find Aquamarine in Namibia, we find Aquamarine in Mozambique. Now when we're talking Santa Maria, let's go back to the most important discovery of Aquamarine in the world. So Santa Maria is more expensive than its counterparts. Not by double or triple or quadruple. It can go as high as a hundred times more expensive due to that vivid, deep saturation. So as we're talking about Aquamarine from a Kat Florence perspective, because she only deals with the finest-quality Aquamarine in existence, we're going to talk about Santa Maria. Because that is her expectation of what Aquamarine should look like. The very, very rare, the 0.00000001% of all the material out there. But it's really tough to get this material, because there's hundreds of buyers who want it for every stone that ever comes out or is ever discovered.

So you've got the Santa Maria deposit, which produces amazing Aquamarine. Now, within this area of Brazil, you also have Santa Teresa, which is about an hour and a half away from the Santa Maria mine. It also produces Aqua, gets some good saturation, but doesn't hit the depth of the Santa Maria qualities. Santa Maria definitely reigns supreme in Brazil as the number one color to reach an aquamarine. So Santa Maria, when you're looking at it, you're looking at vivid, you're looking at deep saturation and extremely unique collectible material. I'm not putting down all the other Aquas in the world, because I sell hundreds and hundreds of kilos of Aquamarine from all different locales across the world. But I will tell you right now, only a very, very small amount ever reached that vivid blue that Santa Maria reaches. And that is why it's so collected and so coveted by collectors, enthusiasts, and people all around the world who want the best of the best.

Santa Maria Aquamarine earrings

Now, when we go, what can compete with the Santa Maria aquamarine? There's only a few deposits in the world that have ever been discovered. You know, surprisingly, Indian Aqua that's discovered in India actually produces some amazing fine colors. We got some amazing colors out of India, of Aquamarine, most on the eastern part of India along the east northern coast. We found some amazing Aqua coming out of there. I won't say it's as good as Santa Maria, because it's not, but you get the better shades of color. So let's say, for example, on a scale from 1 to 10, most Aqua will range in the color depth of 1 to 5, and that is already with 5 being extremely good color in the retail sector. That's like the best you'll ever see in retail. Once you get the 6 and 7, that is sort of borderline what people like to call Santa Maria. 6 to 7: you can get that kind of color out of India, right. But 7, 8, and 9—predominantly, once again, Santa Maria. hard to get that color. Not a lot of mines in the world produce that saturation. And that is why Aquamarine is constantly—the search is on to find this depth of color, which doesn't really exist in most mines or most locales across the world, because it's not even like ruby, where you can mine 100 kilos and you might get 1 gram that's good quality ruby. With Aquamarine, you can mine 10 tons and never see a deep color Aquamarine. There’ll just be none there at all. Zero, nada, nothing.

And that is the reality of Aquamarine and the complication. And that's why deep saturated colors are very, very coveted, especially when they're clean. Now, we do get deep blue out of another mine. And it's really funny because when they coined the phrase of this mine, I was in this deposit. 20 years ago, I was the first guy to get in there. I pretty much discovered that area of Mozambique. And what they call it now with the new mining is Santa Maria, you know, Santa Maria Africana. I mean, it's almost laughable, but it is what they call this material because it is really good color—identical to Santa Maria, but it comes from Africa. So it's cool, right? The new miners call it Santa Maria Africana. It looks very similar to its Brazilian counterpart in Santa Maria, but it has more of a greenish hue to it. You know, it's not as vivid blue as the material that comes out of Santa Maria, that location. But it is very, very fine quality. Very, very fine quality. And, you know, this type of material also goes for the thousands per carat, just due to the fact that that vivid depth of color is something that is really, really difficult to find.

And there have been other discoveries through Africa where we have found good blue color, but they tend to have little black spots in them. You know, if you go under a loop or under magnification, you'll see black spots within the crystal structure. Now, it doesn't really deter from the beauty because you can have an amazing, knockout 5.00 carat Aqua, but because of those little—we call it “black rain.” Within the crystal structure, you'll actually get some haziness to it. You don't really notice it too much with the naked eye, but it obstructs luster because it's not a perfectly clean crystal. Therefore, that pop coming off of the back facets is not that vibrant, it's not that intense, it's not that explosive. And what you want out of your Aqua is you want blue, but you want bling, bling, bling, bling and blue, blue, blue. So you'll never get deep blue. There's no such thing as like a royal Aqua. There's no such thing as like a royal Sapphire blue or, you know, anything like that. Aquamarine doesn't go that depth of color, but you can get nice, vivid, medium blues that still sparkle. Aquas, you can always see into the stone. They're never that dark that you can't see into the stone like you'll see with Sapphires, etc. But they are really attractive, dispersive gems.

Santa Maria Aquamarine ring

Now the key is make sure they're clean and make sure they're blue. And it's as simple as that, right? So if you get—when I say the color 10, because I know I'm going to get about 50 emails asking me, okay, so 1 to 5, and then what's 5 to 10? So 10 would be sort of like: 10 is already if you look in a cornflower blue Ceylon Sapphire. I mean, that's a 10 in Aquamarine, maybe a little bit more deep, like a royal blue, sort of between… A cornflower is already a 9, getting up to a 10. If you get a top vivid, saturated Sapphire, it's a different type of blue than you'll see in Sapphire. So it's hard to really express the color and those types of saturation levels. But what would be a medium-color Sapphire is already a top-color Aqua, so don't expect dark blue, because that does not exist in Aquamarine. Right? That's like a whole other beast, right? Beryl just doesn't go that depth of color.

Now, in the world of Aquamarine, you got a lot of different shades as well. You got a lot of green Aquas, for example. I buy a lot of Aquamarine out of the Himalayas. I buy a lot of material out of the Himalayan belt. And a lot of that material comes bluish green. And what I do is I sell the rough, right? But everybody I know—whether it's the Chinese who are buying the rough from me, or the Thais or the Germans, whoever I sell the rough to—they're all heating that material to remove the green, because if you heat Aquamarine, you can actually remove the green from the crystal structures. So when you see a very fine blue color, and there's a shade of green to it, it's most likely unheated Aqua, right? And that's really the situation with it. A lot of people collect that material because it's very, very rare. Most of the Santa Maria deposits tend to be more on the deep, vivid blue saturation. You don't have so much as a primary green. It does exist. And a lot of times they'll heat it out. It doesn't deter from the value at all. It's like Tanzanite is heated. What you're doing is you're oxidizing out the brown from Tanzanite, leaving just the blue, but you're not actually enhancing the blue, you're not actually improving anything, you're just removing something.

So in the case of Aquamarine, when they heat it, it's basically a green-blue stone that Mother Nature produced, and they apply 600 degrees temperature for a certain amount of time. Yeah, just a couple of hours. And basically, that green will subside, and what will be will be just the blue. Now, there's a high risk to do this because if a lot of the saturation is coming from the green side of the blue, making that intensity high, once you heat it and the green disappears, you're left with just blue. And a lot of times the color will lighten. And once the color lightens, the value of the stone could drop and diminish dramatically. Another problem with heating is: if there is anything in that stone, if there is any crystal, any crystal present at all, at all—it's going to crack. Because once it's exposed to that type of temperature, the crystal inside will automatically crack, and basically shatter the stone in half. And that's how a lot of stones get shattered, whether they're Paribas, Tanzanite’s during the heating process, which is commonplace for those types of materials. Aquamarine goes through that as well.

Kat Florence deals with predominantly natural, unheated blues, and she deals with predominantly Santa Maria. Every once in a while, we'll get a Santa Maria Africana that makes the mark. To be honest with you, I think she's only set 1 or 2 stones. 99.9% of all Aquamarines coming through Kat Florence are Santa Maria. And she has some notable stones that have gone as high as 200.00, 300.00 carats, you know, perfect Kat Florence cut—the top color that will blow your head off. And it's just not common anymore because the quality expectation that Kat Florence wants is beyond the call of duty. I mean, we're talking about the 1 in 100 million Aquas in circulation. She only wants one nobody can get, ever, because a lot of her pieces sell at auction. A lot of her pieces are being sold to the most important collectors in the world, and they know everything about everything when it comes to different varieties of Beryl’s. So, they want what nobody can get. And that is what Kat Florence focuses on.

I hope you've enjoyed my information about the world-class Aquamarine, and I hope you share the knowledge, because that's why I do this in the first place. Once again, don't forget to say, “remind me when Don discovers a new deposit or launches a new podcast.” I do it once a week. So just for information, stay in touch. A lot of times it's related. A lot of times I'll introduce you to some other people that I’m meeting along my journeys and travels. It's just a great way for people to stay on the hunt, you know, to visit the locations, the locales where these stones are discovered. So do what you got to do. Push the button, push the reminders, snap the thing, download the podcast. I don't know how any of this works, but thanks for listening to Journey of the Stone and we were talking about Aquamarine. If you have any questions, you know what to do. I love you all. I'll be back next week with a new podcast.

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