Amethyst is the most precious stone within the quartz group. Since purple is considered a royal color, amethyst, the transparent purple quartz, enjoyed an historical importance as an insignia of power. Fine amethysts are featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Amethyst was also a favorite stone in the high ranks of the Christian church and was referred to “the stone of bishops”. The Greek word “amethystos” translates into “not drunken.” Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it. The gemstone still symbolizes sobriety.
The color agent of amethyst is iron. The colors range from purple, violet to pale red-violet. So-called green amethyst is produced by heat treatment.
The deep colors are the most valuable, particularly a rich purple with rose flashes. The “Siberian” deep purple with red and blue flash commands the highest prices. So-called green amethyst does not really count as amethyst, which is by definition violet or purple.
In artificial light amethyst does not display its best color. It looks best in daylight, more precisely, particularly just after sunrise and before sunset, when the light is soft and warm.
A fine amethyst is transparent, which means, the light passes through the stone unhindered. A translucent amethyst slightly weakens the passage of the light through the stone. The best quality amethyst is “clean”, free of visible inclusions of any kind. As the amethyst is plentiful, there is little reason to buy stones with visible inclusions.
Due to the variability of the color distribution in the crystals, amethyst is often cut as brilliant round to maximize the color. Other cuts can be used when the color is better distributed. Amethyst is available in a wide range of calibrated sizes and shapes, including many fancy shapes.
Amethyst location and deposits
The most important deposits are in Brazil, namely the “Palmeira” amethysts of Rio Grande do Sul and the “Maraba” amethysts of Para. Other deposits are found in Bolivia, Canada, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka, United States (Arizona), Uruguay and Zambia.
Common Amethyst treatments
Heat treatment of 878-1382 degrees F (470-750 degrees C) results in light yellow, red-brown, green or colorless varieties.
Color: Purple, violet, pale red-violet
Chemical composition: SiO, silicon dioxide
Crystal system: (Trigonal), hexagonal prisms
Hardness: 7 (Mohs scale)
Specific gravity: 2.65
Refractive index: 1.544 – 1.553
Color of streak: White
Absorption spectrum: 550 – 520
Fluorescence: Weak, bluish
The Amethyst zodiac, myth & legend
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes to us from Greek myth. Dionysius, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a human and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path. Violent tigers should carry out his wish. Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana was to become the victim. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god’s tears stained the quartz purple, creating the famous gem.
Amethyst is the birthstone for those who are born in February or for the Zodiac sign of Pisces.
In Antiquity, as well as in the Middle Ages, people believed that the cosmos is reflected in gemstones. The amethyst is assigned to the planet Neptune. The esoteric movement revived the ancient believe and the gem industry made it another marketing tool to promote certain gems.
The healing powers of gems remain a controversial issue, but are mentioned for centuries by healers, shamans and medicine men. Whether its factional or a placebo effect doesn’t matter, if it helps. The safest approach is to wear the gemstone in skin contact to the troubled part of the body. Amethyst is said to be of help for headaches, pancreas and backache.