Cupid, draw back your bow because the month of love is upon us. February may often be associated with red and pink hearts. But when it comes to gemstones, amethyst and its various shades of purple reigns supreme. Want to learn more about this fabulous February birthstone? Read on!
What is Amethyst?
Amethyst is a member of the quartz family and the most recognized purple gem. It comes in a variety of shades, from light lilac to deep royal purple. Some stones even have a brownish tint. Amethyst gems also tend to display color zoning (aka an absence of consistent color). Therefore, you’re likely to see a range of darker to lighter colors within each individual gem.
These beautiful purple hues result from exposure to radiation, iron impurities and traces of other chemical elements. However, some natural amethyst stones undergo heat treatments to further enhance their color. The most coveted amethyst shade is a deep purple or reddish purple with consistent color (aka no color zoning). Brownish or rust-colored stones are least desirable and marketable, so you’ll want to avoid those. You’ll also want to steer clear of gems that appear too dark, as they may appear black under dim lighting.
Amethyst is affordable and available in many fancy shapes and sizes, making it a great choice for statement pieces. Since the price per carat doesn’t jump dramatically, you can still choose a larger stone without breaking the bank. Want an even more budget-friendly option? Consider pieces featuring lab-grown amethyst vs. natural gems. As you probably guessed, lab-grown amethyst is produced in a laboratory, but its chemical and physical makeup is very similar to natural amethyst. In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference without advanced equipment and testing.
History of Amethyst
Amethyst jewelry has been making a statement since 2000 BCE! The term “amethyst” comes from an ancient Greek word that means “not drunk.” Given amethyst’s wine-like color, people believed that wearing the gem could prevent intoxication. Legends even connected the stone to Bacchus (aka Dionysus), the god of wine. Other legends claimed that the stone could make the recipient think in a clearer and more quick-witted manner.
Like natural diamonds, rubies and emeralds, amethyst was once considered a rare find. Royal families in Europe and Asia reportedly wore the treasured gem since about 350 BCE, when Alexander the Great ruled in ancient Greece. But since then, it has been determined that quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust.
By the 19th century, large amethyst deposits were discovered in Brazil, making the gem more available and therefore more affordable. Today, Africa and South America produce much of the world’s amethyst supply. Brazil is still an important source of the stone – particularly its southern state, Rio Grande do Sul – along with Bolivia’s Anahí mine, which was named after Princess Anahí of the Ayoreo tribe. Arizona is also home to fine quality amethyst that can be found in dark purple and purplish red shades.
Amethyst Fun Facts
Amethyst is the official stone for celebrating sixth and 17th wedding anniversaries!
Amethyst scores a 7 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale – a scale that ranks the durability of diamonds, gemstones and other minerals. This means it’s a fairly durable gem for daily wear. But the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) suggests storing your amethyst jewelry away from harder stones, such as diamonds and rubies, to prevent scratching.
St. Valentine, who is widely associated with romantic love, reportedly had an amethyst ring that featured an engraved image of Cupid.
The Anahí mine in Bolivia is known for producing “ametrine:” a combination of amethyst and citrine in one crystal. The result is a unique purple and yellow gem.
Some amethyst crystals can be quite large. A crystal that was once on display at the GIA Museum weighed a whopping 164 pounds!
Astrologer Camillo Leonardi once wrote that the stone would make recipients smarter and eliminate evil thoughts.
Amethyst is said to symbolize personal empowerment and inner strength!
Catherine the Great and actress Elizabeth Taylor both adored the gem and were often seen with amethyst necklaces, earrings, etc.
In the Bible, amethyst is listed as one of the gemstones that represents the 12 tribes of Israel.
In 1953, Wallis, Duchess of Windsor’s flashy, Cartier-designed amethyst necklace garnered attention at a French gala. The bib-style necklace featured 28 step-cut amethysts – including a large heart-shaped stone – turquoise cabochons (aka shaped and polished gemstones), round cut diamonds and a gold rope chain.
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