Jewelry

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz – Similarities and Differences

Aquamarine vs topaz side by side

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Most recognized for their pastel, dreamy blue hues, blue topaz and aquamarine are almost indistinguishable from each other. Let’s take a look at their durability and quality factors, along with the things that you should know when shopping for these gemstones.

What Is Aquamarine?

Aquamarine gemstone pendant

Aquamarine pendant by Gemstone Garden UK. See it here.

A mineral made of beryllium aluminum silicate, aquamarine belongs to the beryl family. Its name comes from the Latin aqua marina for sea water, as it can be found in blue and blue green colors, caused by trace amounts of ferrous iron. These gemstones are opaque to transparent and have a vitreous luster. In the Mohs scale of hardness, aquamarine ranks 7.5 to 8. 

Aquamarine is commonly found in granitic rocks, especially granite pegmatites. Brazil is the world’s major source of fine gemstone, especially in the states of Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Minas Gerais. It can also be sourced from Madagascar, Russia, South Africa, Columbia, Ireland, Norway, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Mozambique, Zambia and the United States.

What Is Blue Topaz?

Blue topaz pendant

Blue topaz pendant by Saray Silver. See it here.

Blue topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine that ranges in pale to medium blue color. The name topaz comes from the Sanskrit term tapas for fire. A naturally occurring light blue topaz is rare, so the ones on the market have been treated to give off a blue color.

These gemstones are typically transparent and rank 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Blue topazes are commonly sourced from Brazil, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Japan and the United States.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Color

Aquamarine can be found in a range of blue varieties. It’s usually blue with a touch of green or vice versa, as well as deep blue—but not in any other color. It ranges from very light to slightly dark, but sometimes the color is enhanced by the cut.

Unlike other gemstones, its value comes from its tone rather than saturation and hue. It’s said that aquamarine with a pure, intense blue color is most coveted. Also, those with darker tones or hints of gray will cost more than lighter ones.

On the other hand, naturally occurring blue topaz is generally pale and watery in color, but enhanced gemstones come in a variety of blue shades, from light to deep and vivid hues. Topaz comes in a variety of colors and blue topazes are almost always caused by treatment.

Its popular varieties are London Blue, with a grayish blue or dark steel blue color; Swiss Blue, with a saturated greenish blue color; and Sky Blue, with pale blue color that mimics the aquamarine color in tone and hue.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Treatments and Enhancements

An untreated aquamarine is more green than blue—think of sea green and seafoam colors—but heat treatments affect its final color. Usually, aquamarine is treated to remove its green tint since the pure blue color is more desirable. Many of the dark colored aquamarines in jewelry are made by heating brownish or greenish crystal. Heating can change the color of the crystal, but it won’t affect its saturation.

When it comes to topaz, a pale blue color isn’t rare but intense blue shades are. In fact, most blue topazes in the market are just irradiated and heat-treated colorless topaz. Irradiation turns the colorless crystal into greenish brown, while the heating process gives it a rich blue color. Unfortunately, the color enhancement of blue topaz is undetectable, as it nearly duplicates what happens underground.

Having said that, note that heat treatment and irradiation is an industry standard and most gemstones go through this process, including precious stones like sapphire and ruby.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Clarity

Both aquamarines and blue topazes commonly have high clarity without eye-visible flaws. In fact, aquamarines often have better clarity grades than other fellow beryl stones like emeralds. If it does have some inclusions, you’ll see long, hollow tubes, irregularly shaped liquid droplets or snow stars, as well as crystals of other stones.

Since aquamarines with good clarity are common, these inclusions can lower the gem’s value. Some stones undergo fracture filling with epoxy resins to enhance clarity, but this is rare. Most of the time, such stones are made into beads, cabochons and carvings, instead of faceting them.

Blue topazes often have remarkable clarity, as they’re made from heat-treated colorless topaz. Most blue topaz on the market isn’t treated for clarity enhancements.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Gemstone Cut

Aquamarines can be cut into almost any shape, but emerald cuts are often preferred. Still, they can be cut into a variety of shapes including oval, triangles, marquise, cushions and rounds. Also, they’re some of the easiest gemstones to polish, making them a great option for jewelry. If the gem displays the so-called chatoyancy or cat’s-eye formation when light strikes, it can be made into a cabochon.

Generally, topaz crystals are columnar or elongated, so they’re often cut in emerald, oval or pear shapes, which retain the most weight. A great thing, blue topazes are more affordable than other colored topazes, so cutters can experiment with checkerboard or fantasy cuts, as well as designer cuts fashioned by hand or machine.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Durability

When it comes to hardness, both gemstones are durable for everyday wear. Aquamarine ranks at 7.5 to 8, while blue topaz ranks at 8 on Mohs scale.

In terms of toughness, aquamarine has imperfect cleavage, while blue topaz has perfect cleavage. In gemology, gemstones with perfect cleavage tend to split easily with a sharp blow, while those without cleavage are the hardest to split. An aquamarine might be susceptible to internal cracks, but it isn’t prone to chipping and fracture like blue topaz is.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz: Value and Carat Weight

Generally, aquamarine is much more expensive than blue topaz, since it’s rarer in nature, while topaz is commonly produced by treating colorless topaz. Just keep in mind that the workmanship of the jewelry piece can also affect the final price.

Aquamarine prices usually depend on the purity of color, depth and clarity. When it comes to per-carat prices, aquamarine tends to have lower price for sizes above 25 carats than smaller stones of the same quality, since there’s a less demand for larger stones.

When it comes to blue topaz, clarity and size have a significant effect on its value. However, blue topazes in the market are inexpensive. It only means that blue topaz is an affordable option if you’re just after a beautiful blue gem. In fact, blue topaz can range from $1-$27 per carat, though the London Blue is generally more expensive than other varieties.

Aquamarine vs. Blue Topaz – How to Tell Them Apart

While taking your stone to a licensed gemologist is the best option, you might want to be familiar with their differences.

  • Color: A natural aquamarine has a pale blue color, as well as a slightly green touch. Also, it may look pale from one angle and deep blue from another. On the other hand, blue topaz will only have a blue tone and its color will be the same, regardless of the angle you’re looking from.
  • Weight: Blue topaz is heavier than aquamarine of the same size and will be smaller than aquamarine of the same weight.
  • Refraction Property: Gemstones with a high refractive index (RI) carry more brilliance than stones with a low RI. Blue topaz has a strong refraction while aquamarine is less refractive. If you see double refraction lines in the stone, it’s a blue topaz.
  • Trade Names: Madagascar aquamarines are fine, medium blue, while Brazilian aquamarines are bluish green. However, they don’t actually come from these locations, as the terms Madagascar and Brazilian only refer to the gemstone color.

Santa Maria aquamarines have highly saturated blue color and are medium dark in tone. While they get their name from the place they were first discovered, similar colors can also be found in other locations. The Maxixe beryl has a deep blue color—however, it’s not an aquamarine but a variety of its own.

When it comes to blue topazes, popular trade names are Sky Blue, Swiss Blue, or London Blue. Sky Blue topaz has an enhanced aqua blue color, while the Swiss Blue has an enhanced medium blue color. The darkest of them is the London Blue, which is also the most expensive.

Blue Topaz vs. Aquamarine Origin and History

Both these gemstones have been honored throughout history. Here’s a look at their historical lore and mythological associations.

History and Folklore of Aquamarine

With its blue green color, aquamarine was associated with the sea during the ancient Greek and Roman times. Early sailors used them as talismans, in hopes that the sea god Neptune would protect them on oceanic voyages. In some legends, it’s thought that mermaids’ tails were made of aquamarine.

Aquamarine also decorated European crowns, such as the Crown of Saint Stephen and the Crown of Saint Wenceslas. Eventually, the gemstone became popular in intaglios, where a hand-carved aquamarine was regarded as a treasured possession.

Aquamarine also became popular for shamans, mystics and healers, in hopes of enhancing their psychic abilities. Others used it in meditation, as the gemstone’s serene blue color represents the calming properties of the sea.

History and Folklore of Blue Topaz

Ancient Greeks used blue topaz for strength, while others used it to strengthen the intellect and banish sadness. In the Middle Ages, it was ground into powder and mixed with wine, in hopes of promoting a good night’s sleep. In many cultures, blue topaz was thought to have healing powers and protective abilities against diseases and untimely deaths.

In Judaism, topaz is sacred as it was worn by the high priest of Israel. In fact, it was one of the twelve precious stones set on the “breastpiece of judgement,” which was the most glorious part of the high priest’s dress.

During the Renaissance, Europeans thought that the gemstone could protect someone from dark magic, break spells and calm anger. In some cultures, blue topaz has gained a lunar association and is believed to harness the moon’s calming energy. In Hindu traditions, the gemstone is astrologically connected with Jupiter.

Symbolic Meaning of Aquamarine and Blue Topaz

Nowadays, aquamarine is the birthstone of March, while blue topaz is regarded the modern birthstone of December. Both gemstones have been used in jewelry for centuries and most of their symbolic meanings are derived from ancient beliefs and mythologies.

  • Aquamarine is a symbol of everlasting youth and happiness. It’s said to calm stormy waters and to bring happiness to marriage, making it the traditional gemstone for 19th wedding anniversary. It’s also thought to be the lucky stone of those who were born under the astrological sign of Pisces. As a seawater stone, it’s still believed to have soothing energy and bring calm to the wearer.
  • On the other hand, blue topaz represents eternal love and fidelity, making it the traditional gemstone to celebrate a 4th wedding anniversary. As a lucky stone of Sagittarius, it’s believed to balance one’s thoughts and emotions for a harmonious life. Also, it’s thought to enhance creativity and boost self-confidence.

Which Gemstone Is Right for You?

Both gemstones give off the refreshing color of the sea and each has its own merits. Nothing beats the beauty of a natural aquamarine—not to mention it’s a rarer and more valuable stone. However, if you’re on a tight budget, blue topaz is a more budget-friendly option and has a beautiful look.