The dreamy amethyst crystal is the birthstone for February babies. Its lilac to deep purple hues are primarily caused by iron impurities, but can also be from irradiation or the presence of trace element impurities within the crystal. The gemstone has featured in royal regalia and jewellery throughout time which explains the stone’s association with royalty and nobility.
Greek legends believed that amethyst was associated with the God of Wine, Bacchus due to the striking wine colour of the stone. The stone’s name originates from the Greek word “amethustos” which translates to “not intoxicated.” Hence, wine goblets were often carved from amethyst as it was believed to protect the consumer from drunkenness. It is also believed that carrying amethyst kept wearers quick witted and clear headed in battle. It is also a symbol of sincerity, security and calmness.
The world’s largest deposits of amethyst crystal can be found in Brazil and Uruguay. Typically the crystals can be found nestled in large geodes (rounded, hollow voids) within volcanic rock. Some geodes are in fact so large that you can even stand inside them.
Figure 1: Amethyst Geode
The value of an amethyst is determined by a variety of quality factors. The most prized crystals display a rich reddish purple shade and an absence of colour zoning. Colour zoning is classified as angular zones of light and dark areas within a crystal (the exception to this is ametrine, a unique bicolour variation of quartz displaying both the purple of amethyst and yellow of citrine). The crystal is usually found with very few inclusions, so high clarity is expected in excellent quality stones. Because of its abundance, carat weight has a lesser implication in determining the value of a stone. The February birthstone is popular for freeform shapes like animals or other objects as it is easily cut by hand or automated sculpting.
Famous Amethyst Pieces
St Valentine, a catholic bishop who was regarded as the patron of love wore an amethyst ring carved with the image of cupid. St Valentine was martyred for secretly wedding young couples after it was outlawed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II (Read more about the story behind Valentine’s Day here). The image of cupid was a recognised symbol of love in the Roman Empire, hence the ring was used by soldiers to identify him and ask for his marriage services.
The Duchess of Windsor from 1896-1986, Wallis Simpson, famously wore an extravagant Cartier bib style necklace while attending a gala in the Palace of Versaille in 1953.