Birthstone February - Amethyst
Amethyst is the flag bearer for the Quartz family of gemstones. The gem perfectly showcases all that this mineral has to offer. It can be light lavender, deep violet, and anywhere in between, and sometimes it looks reddish-purple, while other times, it can be blueish-purple. Known for its clarity and being readily available in larger carat weights, Amethyst remains one of the most popular gemstones.
It's name comes from the Greek word "amethystos" meaning "not intoxicated". And throughout history, the special virtue of Amethyst has been that of preventing drunkenness and overindulgence. In ancient times, wealthy lords wanting to stay sober would have their drinking glasses or goblets made from Amethyst. While pouring wine for their guests they could serve themselves water, with the dark purple hue of the gem disguising the colour of the drink to resemble wine, thus staying sober.
Amethyst has a rich romantic history owing to its association with St Valentine. The patron saint of romantic love wore an Amethyst ring carved with the image of Cupid and this lead to Amethyst becoming a birthstone for the month of February. The gemstone is also associated with the number 33, the number of divine protection, making it an ideal gift for those celebrating a 33rd wedding anniversary. It is also a favoured gemstone for the sixth and seventeenth wedding anniversaries.
Amethyst can be slightly pleochroic, which means that when light hits the gem, shades of different colours such as reds and blues can be seen from different angles.
Unlike other gems, its value is primarily defined by the colour displayed, rather than by its carat weight. Collectors look for depth of colour, possibly with red flashes if cut conventionally. The highest-grade amethyst (called "Deep Russian") is exceptionally rare.
Growing in popularity is the ‘Rose de France’ variety, defined by its pale shade of purple, reminiscent of a lavender/lilac shade.
A little bit more history
Amethyst’s use in rudimentary jewellery can be traced back as far as the Neolithic period (approximately 4,000 BC) and samples of it set into gold rings have been uncovered in burial sites from around 2,400 BC.
Due to its association with piety and celibacy, Amethyst has been set into rings of Cardinals, Bishops and Priests of the Catholic Church for centuries. Over the years, the gem has also been cherished by royalty and several pieces can be found in the British Crown Jewels. Amethyst was also known as a personal favourite of Catherine the Great.
A little bit of science
Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz and owes its violet colour to irradiation, impurities of iron and in some cases other transition metals, and the presence of other trace elements, which result in complex crystal lattice substitutions.Without these iron impurities, this stone would be colourless and the amound of iron is what determines how deep the colour is.
Amethyst rates a 7 on the Mohs scale, which means it is extremely scratch-resistant and making it highly suitable for use in jewellery.
Cut gems of amethyst are often graded using the terms: Siberian, Uruguayan or Bahain, representing high, medium and low-grade stones regardless of the actual source. Due to patchiness of the colour distribution in the crystals, amethyst is often cut as brilliant round finished gems to maximize the colour.
A little bit about mining and production
High quality amethyst can be found in Siberia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Uruguay, and the Far East. The ideal grade is called "Deep Siberian" and has a primary purple hue of around 75–80%, with 15–20% blue and (depending on the light source) red secondary hues.
Amethyst is produced in abundance from the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil where it occurs in large geodes within volcanic rocks. Neighbouring Artigas and Uruguay are also large world producers,
Much fine amethyst comes from Russia, especially from near Mursinka in the Ekaterinburg district, where it occurs in drusy cavities in granitic rocks.
South Korea and many localities in south India also yield amethyst. And one of the largest global amethyst producers is Zambia , in southern Africa.
The United States is also a producer, with Amethyst mined in Arizona, Texas, North Carolina; Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan among other states. Amethyst is also relatively common in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia.
A little bit of folklore and symbolism
Because of its wine-like colour, early Greek legends associated amethyst with Bacchus, the god of wine, believing that wearing amethyst prevented drunkenness. Ancient Greeks and Romans routinely studded their goblets with Amethyst believing wine drunk from an Amethyst cup were powerless to intoxicate, and a stone worn on the body, especially at the navel, had a sobering effect.
Even today, there are many who believe the Amethyst capable of helping to curb overindulgence and bad habits such as smoking, drinking and drug use.
Besides, sobriety, Amethyst is reputed to be a stone of spirituality and contentment, known for its metaphysical abilities to still the mind and inspire higher thinking. Referred to as "nature’s tranquilizer", Amethyst is thought to relieve stress and stain, balance mood swings and alleviate sadness and grief.
In the spiritual world, Amethyst provided a connection to the Divine. To the Hebrews, it was Ahlamah, the ninth stone in the breastplate of the High Priest; engraved with the tribe of Dan, as well as the twelfth foundation stone for the New Jerusalem.
To the Egyptians, it was Hemag, listed in the Book of the Dead to be carved into heart-shaped amulets for burial. In Eastern cultures, it was listed in descriptions of sacred "gem-cities", "trees of life", and used in temple offerings for worship.
St. Valentine was thought to have worn an Amethyst ring engraved with the image of Cupid and so it is that Amethyst became the stone of faithful lovers. It is also referred to as the “couple’s stone” and gives meaning to relationships that over time give way to deeper connection and more soulful communion. Wear as an engagement or eternity ring for fidelity, or as a locket to call back lost love.
12 Fascinating Facts about Amethyst
1. Amethyst is the official gemstone of the province of Ontario and the US state of South Carolina. Several South Carolina amethysts are on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
2. Throughout history, Amethyst has been known as the Bishop's Stone since it symbolised ecclesiastical dignity. Bishops continue to wear Amethysts on the second finger of their right hand to this day.
3. St. Valentine was thought to have worn an Amethyst ring engraved with the image of Cupid and so it is that Amethyst became the stone of faithful lovers.
4. Amethyst was called the "Gem of Fire" in ancient times because it was thought to contain fire energy, an energy that is creative, passionate, and spiritual.
5. Amethyst was used in Peru for protection against witchcraft. The ceremony included engraving the name of the sun and moon on the Amethyst stone and hanging it around their neck with a baboon's hair or a swallow's feather.
6. Amethyst was the emblem for Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles.
7. Prior to the 19th century, Amethyst was a precious stone since it was as rare as Emerald and Ruby stones. Once large deposits of Amethyst Geodes were found in Brazil, Amethyst was downgraded to a semi-precious stone.
8. Tibetans consider amethyst sacred to the Buddha and make prayer beads from the stone.
9. In the Middle Ages, Amethyst was considered a symbol of royalty and used to decorate English regalia.
10. The Duchess of Windsor wore a Cartier-designed amethyst necklace to a gala in Versailles in 1953. It was made of 28 step-cut amethysts, one oval faceted amethyst, and a large heart-shaped amethyst in front.
11. Leonardo da Vinci believed amethyst had the power to control evil thoughts, to quicken intelligence, and to make men shrewd in business matters.
12. Single amethyst crystals can be huge: the GIA Museum displayed a doubly terminated crystal that weighed 164 pounds.
Caring for your Amethyst Jewellery
Amethyst's beautiful colour will fade in sunlight and so we always recommend removing any jewellery before sunbathing. Amethyst can be safely cleaned with warm soapy water. Ultrasonic cleaners are usually safe except in the rare instances where a stone is dyed or treated by fracture filling. Steam cleaning is not recommended, and amethyst should not be subjected to heat.