I0007: “Snowflake” Inclusion in Aquamarine

This week’s inclusion was rooted in natural curiosity in being a gemstone merchant and a gemmologist. As The Gem Monarchy team had to sieve through the stock in preparation for the Jewellery Industry Fair. Anything with even the smallest speck of dust or incorrectly cut didn’t make an appearance. Therefore, a handful of stones which were left with some inclusions; still precision cut but with splotches of dark and light spots. An inquisitive mind put the stone under the microscope. Oh and before I forget… Aquamarine is the birthstone of March.

Once again, like our last entry in the journal the iPhone camera also participated, as well as the DSLR camera. There were quite a lot of things we changed about the lighting when capturing this inclusion. From dark field, to light field illumination and from one angle to another. It was a true learning experience.

Now the inclusion itself in the DSLR camera was located on the top right, which at first glance had looked like a “fluid” like inclusion, similar to the fingerprint inclusions in sapphires. But upon closer inspection these looked like there were still crystal remnants within the inclusion. In fact it can be described as “dendritic”, being comparable to dendritic agate. Furthermore it looks like the inclusion margins are dissolving slightly. This also piqued my interest. After some research and friendly help from a group of inclusion fanatics on Facebook this was the assessment: Dendritic Ilmenite parallel to the basal pinacoid.

What does that mean?

Well let’s break it down. Starting back-to-front: basal pinacoid just mean base plane. This is an aquamarine is perpendicular to the c-axis. Parallel, we know what that means. Ilmenite is in the most basic of terms the ore of iron and titanium. Also, we already described dendrites. How this is geologically formed is as follows:

  1. During the growth of the host, tiny crystals embed in the host.
  2. This therefore, causes circular cracks around them, which are always parallel to the basal plane.
  3. As the host crystal grows those circular fissures heal.

It seems really simple when we dismantle the concept. Practically though the presence of these “snowflake” inclusions really say a lot about the environmental elements which this aquamarine grew up in.

Once we go macro we see that the whole gemstone is littered with these inclusions. But once we go really macro what remains are a few splotches on the stone, which are really only visible when you turn the stone in a certain direction in certain lighting. Using some overhead white light we lit up the inclusions and bought the reality of the colour of Aquamarine into the photo!


Conclusively, when you really haven’t learnt about a specific inclusion or haven’t seen one before, it really helps to have a community of more experienced gemmologists helping out. So we thank the Inclusions group on Facebook for being a hive of international inclusion knowledge and helping out with recognising and understanding this inclusion:

Snowflakes in a wintery landscape, even Van Gogh, who painted The Starry Night, drew inspiration from these inclusions in a Nigerian Aquamarine… not really. But we like to think so.

Punala J. Kiripitige, FGAA, GIA AJP
Punala J. Kiripitige, FGAA, GIA AJP

The Founder of The Gem Monarchy, Punala is a qualified gemmologist(Gemmological Association of Australia) involved in every step of the gemstone boutique process, whether it be sorting, photographing and sending gemstones to making sure that you have the perfect gemstone for your jewellery.