Alluring amethyst, the pale violet to deep purple transparent variety of crystalline quartz, is the gemstone associated with February.
The name amethyst is said to be derived from the Greek word amethystos, meaning “not intoxicated,” as the ancient Greeks associated the gemstone with Dionysus, the god of wine, and believed that wearing amethyst protected its owner from drunkenness.
According to one Greek myth, when a drunken Dionysus was pursuing a maiden named Amethystos, she refused his affections and prayed to the gods to remain chaste. The goddess Artemis granted her wish and transformed her into a white stone. Humbled by Amethystos’ desire to remain chaste, Dionysus poured wine over the stone, dyeing the crystals purple.
In another legend, Dionysus was angered by an insult from a mortal and created fierce tigers to attack the next mortal who crossed his path. Along came unsuspecting Amethystos on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. To protect Amethystos from the tigers, Artemis turned her into a statue of pure crystalline quartz. Dionysus, having seen the result of his actions, wept remorseful tears of wine upon the statue, endowing the stone with the rich purple hue we know today.
Amethyst has since been believed to possess prolific protective and curative powers. These include aiding in the reduction of addiction, arthritis, circulatory issues, insomnia and emotional despair.
Amethyst is also considered the gemstone of meditation, peace, balance, courage and inner strength. In the Old Testament, amethyst is mentioned as one of the 12 stones chosen to adorn the breastplate of the high priest Aaron. Clergy also placed amethyst in crosses during the Renaissance to deflect evil and promote peace. Amethyst was also set in the Crown Jewels of the British monarchy. The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, for instance, contains the famous Cullinan I diamond, or Star of Africa, totaling approximately 530 carats, along with a large, faceted amethyst monde. The Sovereign’s Orb, meanwhile, is set with more than 600 colored gemstones and pearls, including an octagonal-shaped, step-cut amethyst monde.
- Amethyst is February’s birthstone, the gemstone associated with the zodiac sign Pisces and is a traditional jewelry gift honoring the sixth wedding anniversary.
- The most prized variety of amethyst exhibits a deep-purple color enhanced by flashes of burgundy or rose.
- Darker hues of amethyst are rarely enhanced to perfect their color, however, some varieties do respond well to heat treatment, which helps them reveal and retain their best hue.
- Amethyst rates 7 on the Mohs scale (diamond rates highest at 10), which means it’s both hard and durable, and thus quite resistant to normal wear.
- Amethyst can be cut into many shapes and sizes, faceted and fashioned into cabochon cuts.
- Amethyst is affordable due to its widespread availability in numerous global deposits. Major sources include Brazil and Uruguay. Other sources include India, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Zambia. Small quantities of very fine amethyst are also mined in Russia.
- Amethyst can be cleaned with most commercial jewelry cleaners or with mild soap, lukewarm water and a soft brush. Be sure to rinse and dry your amethyst jewelry thoroughly after cleaning.
- Some amethyst, whether treated or not, may fade if exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. Because of this, you shouldn’t wear amethyst jewelry while sunbathing or when using a tanning bed.