Treasured by the ancient Romans, amethyst was worn as a talisman to ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus. Amethyst comes from the Greek "amethystos" which means "not drunken."
Janet Deleuse Designer Jewelry
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myth. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. The terrified girl asked to be spared the pain of the brutal claws so Diana turned her into a statue of pure crystalline quartz. At the sight, Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today.
Since the middle ages, Bishop's rings have been set with amethyst as a symbol of piety and celibacy. Leonardo da Vinci wrote that amethyst has the power to protect against evil thoughts and to sharpen the intelligence. Buddhists believe that amethyst enhances the peace and tranquility of meditation, making it the preferred choice for Tibetan rosaries even today.
Janet Deleuse Designer Jewelry
Amethyst, the traditional birthstone for the month of February, is available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including very large sizes. The Smithsonian Institution has an amethyst that weighs more than 1,000 carats. Of course, very large sizes in rich, deep colors have always been rare.
Designers celebrate amethyst as an ideal gemstone for jewelry because of its royal color, variety of sizes and shapes, affordability, and wide tonal range, from pale lavender to dark purple. Amethyst is complements both warm and cool colors so it looks right set in both yellow and white metals. This chameleon quality means it complements almost every color in your wardrobe.
Janet Deleuse Designer Jewelry
Mined mainly in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and African countries like Zambia and Namibia, small amounts of amethyst are also found in Arizona at the Four Peaks mine near Phoenix.
There is also a synthetic amethyst that is made in labs in Russia, China, and other places. Only a few labs can separate it from natural amethyst, so use care when buying from dubious sources. The AGTA Gem Testing Center is one of the leading labs in the world offering this service.
Amethyst is the mineral quartz, with a hardness of 7. It's durable and great for everyday wear.
Posted from the American Gem Trade Association
WHERE IS AMETHYST FOUND?
Russia was the major source of amethyst until the 19th century, when large deposits were found in Brazil. Once as rare as ruby or emerald, amethyst was suddenly in abundance. Today, the most important sources of amethyst are in Africa and South America. Brazil is still a major supplier, especially its southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, though the rough amethyst mined there tends to have a lighter color than amethyst found in other countries. Amethyst from Brazil sometimes forms in hollow, crystal-lined geodes so large you can stand in them.
The Anahí mine in Bolivia is another prominent source for amethyst. Hidden in the Pantanal wetlands, the Anahí mine is shrouded in fascinating lore. It was discovered by a Spanish conquistador in the 1600s, given to him as dowry when he married Anahí (a princess from the Ayoreo tribe), forgotten for three centuries, and rediscovered in the 1960s. The Anahí mine is also famous in gem circles as the source of the unusual bicolored amethyst-citrine crystals called ametrine.
In Africa, Zambia’s Kariba mine is one of the largest amethyst producers in the world. Amethyst mined there tends to be of superb quality with richly saturated colors.
Amethyst is also found in the United States, just 46 miles (74 km) outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The Four Peaks amethyst mine is located high in the most rugged part of the Mazatzal Mountains. A remote location, hot summer temperatures, and a lack of water and power at the mine make for challenging conditions. Yet this jagged, arid, rattlesnake-infested terrain produces some very fine dark purple and purplish red amethyst crystals.
AMETHYST BIRTHSTONE CARE & CLEANING
Amethyst is a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that it is appropriate for daily use in rings and other jewelry, but over time it may show wear and require repolishing. Because this February birthstone is more susceptible to damage than harder gems such as rubies, sapphires and diamonds, you risk scratching your amethyst jewelry if you place it next to these harder stones...
Heat treatment is the most common technique for improving the color and marketability of natural amethyst. Heat treatment can’t make pale amethyst darker, but it can lighten the color of very dark amethyst and make it more attractive. It can also remove unwanted brownish inclusions in some amethysts. Some amethyst turns yellow – to citrine – with heat treatment.
Heat treating amethyst results in a permanent change in color. However, submitting it to intense heat may render it slightly more brittle than usual, and care must be taken not to damage pointed faceted corners and sharp edges. Note, too, that excessive heat can remove the color entirely, and some amethyst fades with prolonged exposure to strong light. Though the color is stable with normal use, this is not a birthstone to wear to the beach every day.
Amethyst birthstone jewelry can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner, but steam cleaning is not recommended. A soft brush with mild soap is the safest option.
As you shop for the February birthstone, you’ll also encounter lab-created amethyst. Having the same chemical and physical properties as its natural counterpart, synthetic amethyst has been known since the 1970s. In some cases, it is very difficult to distinguish natural from synthetic amethyst without access to advanced gemological testing. The GIA Laboratory can tell the difference, but many in the jewelry industry do not request testing because of the cost and time required to determine the origin of what is a comparatively inexpensive gem. Still, merchants are required to tell you if a gem is natural or synthetic.
The patron of romantic love wore an amethyst ring carved with the image of Cupid.
The astrologer wrote that amethyst quickens intelligence and gets rid of evil thoughts.
Single amethyst crystals can be huge: the GIA Museum displayed a doubly terminated crystal that weighed 164 pounds.
- Mineral: Quartz
- Chemistry: SiO2
- Color: Purple
- Refractive Index: 1.544 to 1.553
- Birefringence: 0.009
- Specific Gravity: 2.66
- Mohs Hardness: 7
Information from the GIA 2021
For more information:
Jeff Deleuse, Gemologist