Amethyst is a popular gemstone known for its regal purple colour. This eye-catching mineral has a long history of use in jewelry and ornamental objects going back thousands of years. In this article, we’ll explore the origins, varieties, properties, and interesting facts about this beautiful purple stone.
Amethyst belongs to the quartz family and gets its distinctive colour from trace amounts of iron and other minerals present in the crystal structure. The name comes from the Ancient Greek word “amethystos” which means “not drunk” as ancient Greeks believed wine drunk from amethyst goblets would prevent intoxication.
Amethyst ranges in colour from light lilac to deep reddish purple. The most valuable shade is a strong reddish purple known as “Siberian” amethyst. While most deposits produce pale purple stones, certain locations around the world produce amethyst in rare and sought-after hues.
Beyond jewelry, amethyst has significance in mythology, religion and crystal healing. It remains a popular gemstone to this day, prized for its alluring colour and metaphysical properties.
Origins and Sources Of Amethyst
Amethyst is found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in mineral veins and geodes all over the world. Some of the earliest recorded finds came from Egypt around 2000 BC. Other significant ancient sources were in Israel, Syria, Greece and the Far East.
Today, important deposits are located in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Russia, South Korea, Madagascar and the United States. Some of the most noteworthy include:
- Minas Gerais, Brazil – Home to large geode deposits that can yield amethyst crystals up to 2 meters long. The colour ranges from light to dark purple.
- Ural Mountains, Russia – These Siberian deposits produce rare red and purple hued amethyst considered to be the finest colour worldwide.
- Plodstone, South Dakota, USA – An American deposit discovered in the 1960s. The amethyst here forms in geodes within a volcanic rock layer.
- Thunder Bay, Canada – A recently discovered deposit with high quality purple and blue hued amethyst.
- Ametista do Sul, Brazil – Known for producing amethyst crystals fully encased inside geodes of agate stone.
- Vera Cruz, Mexico – A new and important mining area producing vivid purple amethyst.
The Many Shades of Amethyst
Amethyst is renowned for its range of purple tones from light lilac to deep reddish-violet. Some varieties are so rare they have their own distinct names. These include:
- Siberian – Intense reddish purple considered the highest quality.
- Deep Russian – Saturated regal purple, also very valuable.
- Rose de France – Rare, light pinkish lavender hue.
- Lavender – Soft pastel bluish purple.
- Grape – Bold vivid shade of purple.
- Chevron Amethyst – Banded white and purple colour pattern.
- Green Amethyst – Extremely rare, caused by radiation exposure.
- Yellow, Orange and Blue – Occasionally found colours.
- Phantom Amethyst – Crystals with a faded whitish core.
The colour saturation, scarcity and demand determines the value, with deeper more intense purple commanding the highest prices.
The Properties of Amethyst
Amethyst is a variety of quartz, giving it a hardness of 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. This makes it suitable for any type of jewelry including rings and bracelets which take wear and tear.
The purple colour can fade with prolonged exposure to light a process known as “burning”. To prevent fading, amethyst jewelry should be removed before sunbathing, tanning, or swimming.
Amethyst is traditionally the birthstone for February and zodiac sign of Pisces. It is also used to celebrate the 6th and 17th wedding anniversary.
Large geodes studded with amethyst crystals are popular collector’s items. Amethyst carved into skulls and animal shapes is sold as artisan stone carvings.
The Meaning and Healing Properties of Amethyst
Amethyst has long been prized for metaphysical properties and associations with royalty and spirituality:
- The purple colour symbolizes royalty, luxury and power. For centuries European kings and queens wore the stone.
- In Buddhism it is connected to the Buddha and thought to promote balance, peace and emotional calm.
- Ancient Greeks believed it prevented drunkenness and intoxication.
- In crystal healing it is said to purify the mind, relieve stress and soothe headaches.
- Amethyst crystals are related to the crown chakra, pineal gland and third eye.
- It enhances intuition and spiritual wisdom for those who meditate with amethyst.
- Provides protection for travelers and assists with insightful dreams.
- Clears negative energy from the body and surroundings.
- Boosts hormone production and tunes the endocrine system.
- Alleviates pain associated with arthritis and joint problems.
While metaphysical properties are unproven, the rich history, allure and beauty of amethyst ensure it remains in high demand.
Interesting Facts About Amethyst
- Amethyst is the traditional birthstone for February and zodiac sign of Pisces.
- The largest cut amethyst gemstone weighs 400 carats and is on display at the Smithsonian.
- Marilyn Monroe famously wore an amethyst cocktail ring set in diamonds.
- Some ancient civilizations made amethyst gemstone goblets believing wine drunk from them was sacred.
- Amethyst crystals have been found in 2,000 year old burial tombs of Chinese aristocrats.
- Fine amethyst jewelry was discovered among the Crown Jewels of England when excavated in the 1600s.
- Bishops traditionally wear amethyst rings as a symbol of celibacy and piety.
- Amethyst gems were once valued equally with ruby, emerald and sapphire.
- Natural citrine is created by heat treating some lower grade amethyst.
- The largest cut amethyst, the Farnese Amethyst, was looted by the Spanish from Aztec royalty in 1562.
- Amethyst gets its name from the Greek word “amethystos” meaning sober, as it was believed to prevent drunkenness.
From ancient talismans to modern day crystal healing, amethyst has retained its regal reputation and mystical allure through the ages. With its stunning purple palette, hardness and durability, amethyst remains a favorite gem for jewelry designers and collectors around the world. Whether it be earrings, rings, pendants or bracelets, adorning oneself with the royal purple gemstone makes a bold fashion statement. For those who appreciate the metaphysical, amethyst’s relaxing and protective energies have helped cement its important place in the world of crystals and gemstones.