Aquamarines are one of the most universally admired gemstones: flattering to all skin tones, their greenish-blue hue is reminiscent of azure waters. Their name is derived from the Latin phrase ‘water of the sea’. Santa Maria aquamarines mined long ago in Brazil are among the finest and most beautiful gems on the market.
Aquamarines are a member of the beryl family; the presence of different levels of iron in the stone’s chemical make-up results in colours that range from pale powder blue through to duck-egg and even greyish-green or teal. These distinct varieties of aquamarine carry important differences in terms of clarity, quality and value.
Santa Maria aquamarines were originally discovered at the Santa Maria de Itabira mine, in Minas Gerais, south-eastern Brazil. The most valuable variety of aquamarine, they are distinguished by their deeply saturated, sky-blue colour and exceptional clarity. The rough material is remarkably transparent: legend has it that in the early 1900s, Brazilian miners discovered a 200kg aquamarine so clear that you could read newsprint through it. This leads to cut gemstones that are beautifully clean. Inclusions cannot be seen by the naked eye, allowing the purity of the colour to take the spotlight.
The original Brazilian Santa Maria mine is now almost exhausted. Aquamarines mined from other locations, including Zambia and Mozambique, are known in the industry as ‘Santa Maria’ if their colour and quality matches that of the original gems, and are also vanishingly rare.
High-quality, original Santa Maria aquamarines tended to be cut and polished into large, step-cut gems, all the better to showcase their colour, clarity and unmistakable beauty. Whether set into a majestic cocktail ring or mounted amongst diamonds within an Art Deco pendant, the allure of a Santa Maria aquamarine is unsurpassed, and they are sought after by connoisseurs and collectors alike.