Amethyst

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From all the quartz family members, amethyst is certainly the most coveted one. It has a color range from a deep purple with red flashes (known as Siberian amethyst) to a pale lilac with blue undertones which are termed Rose de France. These colors are the result of minor trace elements of ferric iron. As purple is a cardinal and regent color, one can find amethysts in many crown jewels as in the British and Russian crown jewels. Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796) had a great passion for amethysts as do Buddhists in Tibet, where they are fashioned to serve as rosaries. Although amethyst is not scarce in present time - due to the discovery of Brazilian deposits - it used to be a very rare stone of high value at certain points in history. Unfortunately amethyst (as most all quartz species) can be easily synthesized in a laboratory and these synthetics can be very hard to detect when the stone is free from inclusions.

Drilled amethyst beads in a Byzantine bracelet
Amethyst derived its name from the Greek word amethystos which can be loosely translated to "not drunken" as ancient Greeks believed it to be an antidote against intoxication. There are many mythological stories involving Dionysus (son of Zeus - known as Bacchus in Roman mythology) which influenced the belief that drunkenness could be avoided when drank from an amethyst goblet. Tourist guides in Ephesus (present day Turkey) still narrate a story that amethyst goblets were used during negotiations; the host would feed his guest wine while he drank water from an amethyst goblet, seemingly drinking wine as well.

In ancient Egypt, soldiers used to wear amethyst to remain calm during battle and Persians, as well as Peruvians, believed amethyst could ward off witchcraft when the stone was carved with a sun symbol. In the late middle ages, Leonardo Da Vinci attributed the power of intelligence and the ability to dissipate evil thoughts to amethyst. Other metaphysical uses of amethyst include the stimulation of the thinking process, calming the mind, finding balance in life, exerting patience as well as battle addictions and compulsive behavior.

Amethyst is the gem for the month of February and for the zodiac sign Aquarius. It is the symbolic gemstone for the 6th wedding anniversary.

18K Yellow gold Victorian pin featuring an oval amethyst with Limoge style enamel inlay of a female accented and framed by rose cut diamonds and pearls.
Image courtesy of Lang Antiques

Gemological Information

Gemological information for amethyst
Color Purple to violet
Crystal Structure Trigonal
Refractive Index 1.544-1.553
Durability Excellent
Hardness 7
Family Quartz
Similar stones Amethyst can be Confused with Purple Sapphire, Glass, Imitation and Synthetic Alexandrite and Scapolite
Treatments Heat Treatment
Country of origin South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Madagascar, Zambia, Myanmar, Canada, Mexico, Mamibia, Sri Lanka, India and The United States.
Amethyst care
Ultrasonic cleaning Safe
Steam cleaning Safe
Warm soapy water Safe
Chemical attack None
Light sensitivity May fade, usually safe
Heat sensitivity May alter to citrine under extreme circumstances

Online G&G articles on amethyst

Lang Antiques
Lang Antiques