Amethyst is the purple variety of the mineral quartz, and the most valued and prized quartz variety. Amethyst is the gem most commonly associated with the color purple, even though there are many other purple gems, such as purple diamonds, sapphires, spinel, iolite, and tanzanite.
Amethyst has captivated mankind for centuries, and has adorned jewelry for thousands of years (scroll down to bottom of page for image of a surviving ancient amethyst necklace dating back to 2000BCE).
Because of its wine-like color, the ancient Greeks associated the mineral with Bacchus, the god of wine, and believed wearing an amethyst prevented intoxication. The word "amethyst" comes from the Greek word "amethystos," meaning "not drunk."
Amethyst is one of the emblems of the twelve apostles, and historically, royals have admired the deep purple hue of amethyst. Purple has been associated with royalty since the days of Alexander the Great. Fine amethysts have been set in religious jewelry and royal crowns for ages, and wre considered equal in value to ruby, emerald and sapphire.
Amethyst lore also includes several claims to mystical powers, including that it would convey strength and wit to those who wore it. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst quickens intelligence and gets rid of evil thoughts.
Amethyst is also a gem of the heart. Its lovely purples color are akin to love. The patron of romatintic love, St. Valentine, wore an amethyst ring carved wtih the image of cupid. Amethyst jewelry is one of the most popular gifts between lovers, and amethyst also is a celebrated stone for the 6th wedding anniversary, and also a stone sometimes gifted for the 17th and 33rd wedding anniversaries.
In modern times, amethyst is associated with power, and it is the US birthstone for February. It is believed that if you celebrate a February birthday, wearing an amethyst can be a symbol of personal empowerment and inner strength.
Russia was once the main source of amethyst. Before the 1800s, amethyst was as expensive a gem as ruby, sapphire and emerald. However, near the turn of the twentieth century, large new amethyst deposits were discovered in Brazil, South America. These new sources of high gem quality amethyst made it widely available in the marketplace, and hence, much much more affordable.
While amethyst is no longer rare, it remains a beloved and popular gem around the world. Amethyst is in demand across all markets, from mass-market jewelry to high-end designer pieces. Its pastel to royal purple hues retain wide consumer appeal, and it can can be cut in a variety of shapes, and can come in relatively very large sizes. Single amethyst crystals can be huge: the GIA Museum displayed an amethyst crystal weighing 164 pounds!
Current day, Brazil is still a major source of amethyst; the gem is also mined in other countries, including India, Namibia, Sri Lanka, United States, Uruguay and Zambia.
Amethyst can also be manufactured in a lab rather than mined.
Gem Quality Amethyst Rough
The above quartz crystals range from clear (commonly known as "rock crystal") to light-medium shades of amethyst. Amethyst's purple color range is very broad, spanning in hue from the palest lilac to very deep, intense royal purple. The above quartz crystals range from clear (commonly known as "rock crystal") to light-medium shades of amethyst. Amethyst's purple color range is very broad, spanning in hue from the palest lilac to very deep, intense royal purple.
In addition to its purple hue, amethyst exhibits a vast range of tone and saturation levels - from bluish cool, to brownish, to reddish, to vivid deep purple.
Reddish-purple amethyst is sometimes referred to in the trade as "raspberry." Experts consider the rich royal purple with reddish overtones of the best African amethyst to be the gem's finest color.
Amethyst also commonly shows color zoning, which usually consists of angular zones of darker to lighter color in a single amethyst stone.
Vivid Deep Purple Amethyst
Cushion cut high gem quality amethyst
Collector's Grade Rough
This amethyst rough crystal from Namibia is spectacular. It shows classic quartz crystal shape - a six-sided columnar crystal with a pyramid-shaped termination at the top. This amethyst rough has much more value as a specimen auctioned for sale to a gem collector who will cherish the rough as the treasure it is, than if the rough were sold to cutters and fashioned into gemstones for setting into jewelry.
A related quartz variety is ametrine, which is a striking combination of purple amethyst and its contrasting quartz variety yellow citrine. Ametrine deposits are found in Brazil and Bolivia.
Amethyst Gemstone Attributes
Amethyst boasts several key attributes: it is relatively common, affordable, and as cut stones, can be found in large sizes across a wide range of gem cuts and shapes.
Amethyst has good toughness and rates a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale so it is an excellent gem for all kinds of jewelry including rings.
The major concern with amethyst is that it is susceptible to light and can fade, so amethyst jewelry should be stored away from light and not worn frequently in bright sunshine.
Chemicals also can damage amethyst, so it should not be subjected to hyrdrofluoric acid, ammonium fluoride, and alkalies. The lesson is to not wear amethyst jewelry while cleaning or working with chemicals.
Finally, care must be taken when repairing and cleaning amethyst jewelry because heat and abrupt temperature changes can fracture the stone or alter its color.
Occasionally amethyst is heat treated to lighten color or to produce yellow citrine or green quartz. The stability of heat-treated amethyst is excellent, but care still must be taken to keep these gems away from light and chemicals. At present, the heat treatment of amethyst is not detectable, even by a gem lab.
Care and Cleaning of Amethyst Jewelry
To preserve an amethyst’s lustrous color, avoid prolonged exposure to heat or sunlight.
It is safe to clean amethyst jewelry with warm soapy water and a soft toothbrush to clean behind mounted stones - use mild soap and not a detergent or harsh cleaning agent).
Ultrasonic cleaning, especially without heat, is usually considered safe.
Steam cleaning is not recommended and is very risky.
"Violets" designed by Kimberly Arpaia
Arpaia Lang handcrafted one-of-a kind natural amethyst & fine silver necklace $900
To purchase the "Violets" Amethyst Necklace, please contact Kimberly or Robert at Arpaia Lang.
Ancient Amethyst Necklace
This ancient necklace dates to 2000BCE. An inscription on the center stone is a South Arabian script 8th century BCE. From "Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World" by Lance Grande and Allison Augustyn, 2009, University of Chicago Press.
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