Named after a famous perfume of the 1950s, "Most Precious" is one of the world's most impressive examples of March's official birthstone. The 1,000-carat, fancy rectangular-cut, sea blue aquamarine was gifted to the Smithsonian in 1963 by Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, the Austrian-born chemist who founded Evyan Perfumes Inc.
The Brazilian-sourced gem, which evokes the clear blue hue of a tranquil sea, now resides in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals within the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
Early in his career, Dr. Langer was a consulting chemist for the American Metals Company and sold fragrances to other companies. During the late 1930s, his first wife and love of his life, Evelyn Diane Westall, inspired him to create a special perfume for fashionable American women that might compete with the French imports of the day. "White Shoulders" would become the signature fragrance of their new company, Evyan, a mashup of "Evelyn Diane."
In 1951, Evyan Perfumes, Inc., introduced the world to "Most Precious," a fragrance formulated from the essence of 22 types of flowers, including lily of the valley, honeysuckle, narcissus, gardenia, tuberose and orange blossom.
Dr. Langer was in his mid-70s when he died in New York City in 1983.
Aquamarine is the sea-blue variety of the mineral beryl, whose family members include emerald (intense green) and morganite (pink to orange-pink). Aquamarines can range in color from light blue to pure blue to shades of greenish-blue. The variations in blue color are dependent on trace amounts of iron in the gemstone’s chemical composition. Interestingly, pure beryl is absolutely colorless.
Beryl rates 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it suitable for fine jewelry.
Aquamarine — a name derived from the Latin word "aqua," meaning water, and "marina," meaning the sea — is a symbol of youth, hope, health and fidelity.
Legend states that Neptune, the Roman Sea God, gifted aquamarines to the mermaids, thus bringing love to all who have owned it. In ancient times, it was believed that aquamarines kept sailors safe at sea. Medieval brides wore aquamarine to ensure happy marriages.
In addition to its role as the official March birthstone, aquamarine is also the designated gemstone gift for those celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary.
Aquamarines are mined in many countries, including Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mozambique and the US, but the finest specimens are sourced in Brazil.
Credits: Photo by Laurie Minor-Penland/Smithsonian.