For centuries, historians and jewelry lovers alike have been enchanted by the mystique of amethyst, the official birthstone of February. A member of the mineral quartz family, amethyst radiates a wide array of regal purple hues ranging from sparkling lilac to sultry deep violet. Amethyst is associated with spirituality, sobriety, security and wisdom. It is also the zodiac stone for the constellation of Pisces.
The alluring gemstone has been the focus of many intriguing myths and legends throughout history. The name "amethyst" is derived from Greek, meaning "not drunken." According to Ancient Greek lore, the stone could ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and intoxication, and keep the wearer clear-headed and quick-witted. The color purple was traditionally the color of royalty, and amethyst was used to adorn the richest and most powerful monarchs and rulers. The English revered the stone for its majestic properties — creating emblems and insignia featuring amethysts during the Middle Ages to symbolize royalty.
Historically, the highest-quality amethysts were found in Russia and were featured in royal European jewelry. While Brazil is now the primary source of this gemstone, fine-quality amethyst can also be found in parts of Zambia, Mexico, Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Canada, Maine, Colorado, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. 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 color distribution in the crystals, amethyst is often cut as brilliant round finished gems to maximize the color.
10 Fun Facts About Amethyst
1. Amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February, and the official gem for Wednesday, Jupiter and those born under the sign of Pisces.
2. Amethyst is the official gemstone of the province of Ontario.
3. Amethyst has been used to symbolize deep love, happiness, humility, sincerity and wealth.
4. Amethyst was once revered as the "Jewel of the Gods.”
5. Amethyst rings are traditionally worn by Bishops; some believe that amethyst brings good luck to petitioners.
6. Farmers believed wearing amethyst would protect their crops from hailstones and locusts.
7. The Hebrew word for amethyst is "ahlamah,” meaning "dream;” the stone was said to cause dreams and visions… and if you dream of amethyst, you will be free from harm.
8. Amethyst was the emblem for Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles.
9. Leonardo da Vinci believed amethyst had the power to control evil thoughts, to quicken intelligence, and to make men shrewd in business matters.
10. Prasiolite, a rare dark green variety of quartz, is sometimes (wrongly) called green amethyst.
Credits: Photo of a large cushion-cut amethyst from the National Gem Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Photo by Chip Clark. Amethyst geode by Didier Descouens (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.