Amethyst is the birthstone for February, meaning it's the perfect time to delve deeper into this gemstone. Amethyst jewelry today is quite popular but amethyst hasn't always been so abundant. The rich purple hues of amethyst are entirely unique and while there are other purple-hued gemstones, amethysts stand out because of their affordability. Purple sapphires can look similar to amethyst but they are much more rare, costly, and their purple tones can vary.
What is it?
Amethyst is a mineral, specifically a variety of quartz. Like all gemstones, amethyst color can vary depending on which country it has been mined in. African amethyst for example tends to have richer, darker tones, while amethysts from Russia have a blue and/or red tint. The darker toned amethyst tends to be more desirable than the lighter purple amethyst. On the Mohs scale (mineral hardness scale) it is a 7, meaning that with enough stress applied correctly it can break. However it's still hard enough that it can be worn in everyday jewelry pieces.
Amethyst has an incredibly rich history associated with the gemstone. It's name stems from the Greek word amethystos translating to "not intoxicated". The lore says that Dionysus/Bacchus was slighted because mortals did not want to partake in his gifts. When he came across Amethyst who refused, he summoned tigers to devour her only Diana stepped in and saved her by turning her into a crystal. Dionysus regretting what he had done, wept and spilled wine onto the crystal turning it purple. From then on Greeks believed it prevented intoxication and therefore carried pieces of amethyst on them. There are variations of course to this lore. Rhea was also said to have presented Dionysus with amethyst to prevent drunkenness. So amethyst was often seen in wine cups as well.
Egyptians were also fans of amethyst as it's been found at burial sites and Cleopatra was said to have worn a ring of amethyst which helped her win over Marc Anthony. Amethyst was said to have been decorating the Mesektet Boat which Ra rode into the Underworld too. Egyptians believed that amethyst would provide them courage in battle. There are stories associating amethyst with Christian lore and Buddhism as well. It is likely a combination of these stories is how amethyst became the birthstone of February representing love, courage, peace, clearheadedness, and sobriety.
Until amethyst was found in Brazil in the twentieth century, amethyst was an extremely rare gemstone. Like rubies and emeralds, amethyst was harder to come by. Royals were often adorned with them because of its cost and rarity. Once these mines in Brazil were discovered however, amethyst became abundant and the cost lowered substantially. Today amethyst is very affordable.
Additional 10 interesting facts
- The color of amethyst is due to radiation.
- When an amethyst is heated, it can turn into a citrine gemstone.
- Green amethyst occurs also when amethyst is heat treated.
- Amethyst is among the oldest gemstones recorded.
- The ideal amethyst grade is called Siberian and its purple hue is 75-80%.
- Amethyst is color graded by region whether it's been mine there or not.
- Amethyst is considered a macrocrystalline quartz; its crystals are distinguishable with the naked eye.
- Citrine and green amethyst occur because the iron is reduced/removed from the amethyst.
- Amethysts pale colors are referred to as "Rose de France".
- In 1993, an amethyst druse was found in Maine containing over 1,000 kg.
We're celebrating February by creating beautiful pieces that showcase amethyst's rich color. Like these gorgeous dainty amethyst teardrop earrings!
How do you like to wear it?