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What Is Amethyst - Gemstone Facts and Information

11 min read

Amethyst is the flag bearer for the Quartz family of gemstones, which also includes Citrine and Prasiolite. The gem perfectly showcases all that this mineral has to offer, across a variety of hues from delicate light pinks to deep dark purples. Known for having eye clean clarity in many specimens and for being readily available in generous carat weights, Amethyst remains one of the most popular gemstones on the market. With a fascinating history and so much color, let's explore more facts about Amethyst and its varieties.

THE HISTORY OF AMETHYST

Amethyst’s use in rudimentary jewelry 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.

Amethyst Infographic

Amethyst is the name given to purple Quartz and some believe that its name derives from the Greek word ‘Amethustos’, ‘a’ meaning ‘not’ and ‘methustos’ meaning ‘to intoxicate’. In ancient times, wealthy lords who wanted to stay sober were said to have had drinking glasses or goblets made from Amethyst. While pouring wine for their guests they could serve themselves water, as the dark purple hue of the gem would disguise the color of the drink so it looked like wine, thus allowing the lord appear to be partaking in a tipple! Following the same theme, it was thought in ancient times if you wished to save a drunkard from delirium you could mix crushed Amethyst into a person’s drink.

Amethyst jewelry

One legend from Greek mythology tells the tale of Dionysus, the god of intoxication, and a young beautiful maiden, named Amethystos, who refused his advances. Dionysus let loose fierce tigers while Amethystos was on her way to pray to the goddess Diana. Before they reached her, Diana turned her into a statue of pure crystalline Quartz to protect her from the advancing tigers. Humbled by Amethystos’ resolution, and horrified at what he had almost done to her, he wept tears of wine. Legend says his tears turned the colorless Quartz purple, thus creating Amethyst.

Amethyst is mentioned in the Old Testament as one of the twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel and was also one of the twelve gemstones adorning the breastplate of the high priest Aaron (Exodus 39). With its association with piety and celibacy, Amethyst has been set into rings and worn by Cardinals, Bishops and Priests of the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages. Over the years, along with its use by the Church, 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 favorite of Catherine the Great.

A bracelet worn by Queen Charlotte of England in the early 1700s was valued at £200 at that time. However, shortly after this a new discovery of Amethyst deposits was made in Brazil, which dramatically reduced the value of the Queen’s bracelet. This provides a good example of how the value of genuine gemstones (just like the stock market) can go up and down based on supply and demand. When mines are eventually exhausted prices tend to increase; as new deposits are found, gemstone prices generally decrease.

Amethyst is steeped in a rich and 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. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that Amethyst quickens the intelligence and helped to dissipate evil thoughts.

AMETHYST GEMSTONE INFORMATION

Amethyst is the birthstone of February, and is the official gemstone for Wednesday. It is also the official gemstone for the 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries. The gem features a trigonal crystal system. Amethyst occurs in many shades, from a light, slightly lavender pinkish to a deep purple similar to that of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Amethyst can also be slightly pleochroic, which means that when light hits the gem, shades of different colors such as reds and blues can be seen from different angles. The color comes from iron impurities within the stone, without which it would be colorless. The amount of iron within each stone determines how deep the color is.

Amethyst in Rose Gold

As a gemstone, it was once as expensive as Emerald, but in the 19th century Brazil came to dominate the gemstone landscape with their huge scale mining operations that have long since diminished. Amethyst still ranks as the most expensive and desired variety of Quartz due to its unique natural deep purple body color and exceptional clarity. Fine grade Amethyst is found in Brazil, Zambia and most recently an exquisite and completely distinctive variety was discovered in Morocco.

Amethyst still ranks as the most expensive and desired variety of Quartz due to its unique natural deep purple body color and exceptional clarity.

In Brazil this stone forms in hollow, crystal lined geodes and in other locations it forms over millions of years embedded in its host rock. The most desired color for the body color of Amethyst is a deep ‘Siberian’ purple reminiscent of the now depleted original source. Finest examples of Amethyst form in two distinct color groups; a deep purple with undertones of a cool blue or a reddish purple, sometimes referred to as ‘raspberry’.

Prasiolite

As there is no single dominant organization or ruling body relating to gemstones, there are often different approaches to how a gem is graded or named. Many organizations within the jewelry industry for instance refer to Green Quartz as Green Amethyst, while others refer to Green Quartz as Prasiolite, Amegreen or Vermarine. This is a really hot topic in the gem world, with some believing that the name Amethyst can only be applied to purple Quartz, others saying if a Quartz’s green color is derived from heat treated Amethyst then it should be named Green Amethyst and others saying it should be known as Green Quartz or Prasiolite. Prasiolite has been known to appear naturally in a small mine in Silesia, Poland, and claims of natural Green Amethyst discoveries have also been made in Namibia, the US state of Nevada, Zambia and Tanzania.

Amethyst jewellery

Different tones of Amethyst have different prefixes. ‘Siberian Amethyst’ refers to darker Amethyst regardless of whether they are from Siberia or not (though traditionally they were before the mines were exhausted), normally having a tone of 75-80%. Amethyst with a more pinkish tone (20-30% tone) is named ‘Rose de France Amethyst’. Amethyst is a hard and durable gemstone measuring 7 on the Mohs scale. In its rough state, the gem often forms in long prismatic crystals, making it ideal for cutting. Because its color can often appear banded, it is usually cut into round brilliant shapes which helps the gem display a more uniformed color when viewed through the table or crown facets.

One of the largest Amethyst mines in the world is in Maissau in Austria and is unusual in that it is open to the public. If you want to travel further, then the Amethyst mines in Brazil are considered to be the best in the world and as long as you don’t mind roughing it a little, you’re sure to have a great adventure visiting the local artisan miners.

AMETHYST CRYSTAL HEALING

Gemstones are as old as time and in the years since their first discovery they've picked up a lot more than adoring collectors and fascinated mineralogists. Many have gained stories regarding their legend, lore and healing properties, and whilst there's no evidence to suggest that any of these properties are real, it's still interesting to explore the esoteric side of Mother Nature's miracles. It's worth asking ourselves, "If you truly believe in something, does that mean it's true"? Scientifically, the answer is no, but what about on a more personal, spiritual level? If you really truly believe that an item in your house is having an effect on you, are you more likely to feel that effect? It's really not for us to say, but it's a very interesting concept that deserves further research. Once again though, we must point out though that no studies have ever found any therapeutic effects or properties in gemstones, and the following is for your information only.

Amethyst is considered by some to be a symbol of peace of mind and modesty. Some believe that Amethyst holds powers to change anger to tranquillity and it is used by crystal healers to revert negative energy into positive energy. It's popularity has been linked with its perceived healing and meditative powers, and is thought to purify the mind, body and spirit, helping to realign the chakras. It is also associated with the zodiac sign Pisces.

GEMOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF AMETHYST

  • Color Purple (sometimes Green)
  • Family Quartz
  • Mohs Scale Hardness 7
  • Specific Gravity 2.65
  • Refractive Index 1.532 - 1.554
  • Lustre Vitreous
  • Crystal System Trigonal
  • Transparency Transparent to translucent
  • Chemical Formula SiO2
  • Composition Silicon Dioxide

WHERE IS AMETHYST MINED?

Amethyst mine map

Gemporia's direct links with mine owners around the globe means we can go direct to source and bring you gemstones from a huge variety of different Amethyst sources. The gem has quite a wide geographic spread, and can be mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Mexico, the USA, Canada, Austria, Morocco, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), China, Namibia, Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia. We're going to pick just three to focus on here (no easy task) showing three different tonal takes on the classic Amethyst color.

AMETHYST VARIETIES

Moroccan Amethyst

One of the finest types of Amethyst ever discovered, Moroccan Amethyst was only unearthed for the first time in 1990, which in the world of gemstones is practically yesterday. The intense deep colors bring to mind the phenomenal quality of classic Siberian Amethyst, supplies of which are long depleted. The Moroccan Amethyst mine is hard to get to, being nestled away in mountains 1,800 meters above sea level, and temperatures can get very high, especially in the summer. But a recent round of modernization at the site has allowed the stone to be mined much more efficiently, though nature ensures that over 80% of the material sourced is nowhere near jewelry quality. Anybody who sets their sights on a top quality piece of this material will surely agree though that all the effort is worth it. Learn more about Moroccan Amethyst below.

Shop Moroccan AmethystMoroccan Amethyst GeologyCutting This Gem

Zambian Amethyst

Mined just a (gem) stones throw from the magnificent Victoria Falls, Zambian Amethyst is something of a Goldilocks gemstone - not too light, not too dark, but balanced beautifully in the middle. Taking on some of the darker body colors from Moroccan Amethyst but also possessing the brighter pink flashes of Rose de France Amethyst makes this one of the most in demand colors of the gem globally. It's so in demand that it's actually Zambia's second biggest gemstone export behind their world-class Emeralds. Remarkably, Zambian Amethyst is almost unique among gemstone treatments in that it can be lightly heated to reduce the color to something much more pleasing to the eye. Connect all this with the strong clarity, fantastic brilliance and enviable lustre, and you'll find yourself with one of the finest Amethyst gemstones the planet has to offer.

Shop Zambian Amethyst

Rose de France Amethyst

This lighter, brighter soft blush variety of Amethyst is not only one of the most visually stunning members of the Amethyst family, it's one of the nicest pink gemstones of all. To be classified as Rose de France, the tone of the gem must hit a very narrow tonal target nestled between darker, more traditional Amethyst tones and the gem known as Rose Quartz, which is very delicately colored. To ensure we buy the right tone of Amethyst to use in our Rose de France Amethyst pieces, our buying team travel with approved examples of the stone with which to compare any potentially new parcels with. Even a whisker of difference in the tone means we'll walk away. Amazingly, Rose de France Amethsyt can be sourced from the same mines that we get the much darker Zambian Amethyst from, and even from the Anahi Ametrine mine in Bolivia.

Shop Rose de France AmethystLearn More About Rose de France Amethyst

Amethyst geode

HOW TO CLEAN AMETHYST

Amethyst is a relatively tough gem so it can be cleaned with warm soapy water (mild washing up liquid will suffice) and a soft cloth or brush. Remember to clean the bottom of the stone as dirt trapped on the underside will stop some light getting into the stone and may make it appear more dull than usual. Never use harsh household cleaners on Amethyst. Cleaning your Amethyst jewelry is easy and you can always buy specialist jewelry cleaning cloths to help.

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HOW TO CARE FOR AMETHYST

Keep Amethyst stored away from other stones as harder gems, such as Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire, will scratch it. Keep it away from extreme heat sources too as this can be permanently detrimental to the color. Always put jewelry away when you aren't wearing it, and never wear pieces when doing household chores or gardening, etc. Caring for your Amethyst jewelry will keep it looking its best for many years to come.

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WHERE TO BUY AMETHYST

The wonderful thing about Amethyst, and indeed all gemstones, is that when you take ownership of a piece, your stone has been forming deep within the earth for millennia but its journey only really begins when it is selected by us and chosen by you. We hope you get many years of enjoyment whilst telling the next chapter in the story of your Amethyst.

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