Amethyst, the luscious purple hued stone is the birthstone for February.
The name “amethyst” derives from the Greek amethystos, which means “a remedy against drunkenness,” a benefit that has been connected to the birthstone for a long time. Because of its wine-like colour, early Greek mythology associated the gem with Bacchus, the god of wine. Amethyst was also believed to keep the wearer’s head clear and quick-witted in battle and business circumstances. Renaissance Europeans believed it calmed lovers overrun by passion.
Amethyst gemstones are generally given as a gift to celebrate the 7th anniversary of marriage. Wear it in celebration of your wedding nuptials or as your February birthstone and you’ll be in royal company: Catherine the Great (Empress Catherine II of Russia, 1729–1796) had a liking for the gem and decked herself in amethyst necklaces, earrings and other jewelry. The famous jewellery connoisseur Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (1896–1986), made a memorable statement when she wore a lavish Cartier-designed amethyst bib necklace to a gala in Versailles in 1953.
WHERE IS AMETHYST GEMS FOUND?
Russia was the major source of amethyst until the 19th century, when large deposits were found in Brazil. Once as rare as ruby or emerald, amethyst was suddenly in abundance. Today, the largest sources of amethyst are in Africa and South America. Brazil is still a major supplier, especially its southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul,these amethysts tend to be lighter in color when compared to amethysts sourced from other countries. Amethysts from Brazil sometimes form in hollow, crystal-lined geodes so big you can stand in them.
The Anahí mine in Bolivia is another prominent source for amethyst. Hidden in the Pantanal wetlands, the Anahí mine is shrouded in fascinating lore. It was discovered by a Spanish conquistador in the 1600s, given to him as dowry when he married Anahí (a princess from the Ayoreo tribe), forgotten for three centuries, and rediscovered in the 1960s.
The Anahí mine is also famous in gem circles as the source of the unusual bicoloured amethyst-citrine crystals called ametrine.
In Africa, Zambia’s Kariba mine is one of the largest amethyst producers in the world. Amethyst mined there tends to be of superb quality with richly saturated colours.
Amethyst is also found in the United States, just 46 miles (74 km) outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The Four Peaks amethyst mine is located high in the most rugged part of the Mazatzal Mountains. A remote location, hot summer temperatures, and a lack of water and power at the mine make for challenging conditions. Yet this jagged, arid, rattlesnake-infested terrain produces some very fine dark purple and purplish red amethyst crystals.
Taking care of your Amethyst
Amethyst is a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that it is appropriate for daily use in rings and other jewellery, but over time it may show wear and require repolishing. Because this February birthstone is more susceptible to damage than harder gems such as rubies, sapphires and diamonds, you risk scratching your amethyst jewellery if you place it next to these harder stones.
Heat treatment is the most common technique for improving the colour and marketability of natural amethyst. Heat treatment can’t make pale amethyst darker, but it can lighten the colour of very dark amethyst and make it more attractive. It can also remove unwanted brownish inclusions in some amethysts. Some amethyst turns yellow – to citrine – with heat treatment.
Heat treating amethyst will results in a permanent change in colour. However, submitting it to intense heat may render it slightly more brittle than usual, and care must be taken not to damage pointed faceted corners and sharp edges. Note, too, that excessive heat can remove the colour entirely, and some amethyst fades with prolonged exposure to strong light. Though the colour is stable with normal use, this is not a birthstone to wear to the beach every day.
Amethyst birthstone jewellery can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner, but steam cleaning is not recommended. A soft brush with mild soap is the safest option. You can do this at home with an old toothbrush and dishwashing liquid in luke warm water.
Shopping for an Amethyst
Colour, it goes without saying, is the most important factor when it comes to amethysts. Distinguished by its purple colour, amethyst has shades ranging from light lavender to dark purple. Its colour is caused by infections in the crystal lattice coming from irradiation, contamination of trace elements and iron impurities. When buying amethyst, what you must watch out for is zoning.
You might be wondering what this means. Because an amethyst crystal can come in very large crystals, often its colours can be diluted and spread unevenly throughout the crystal.
Some amethyst crystals, on the other hand, have deeply saturated rich purple shades. These are the types that are popular in the jewellery world and are obviously more valuable. Although zoning does lower the value of amethyst, that doesn’t mean that they are worthless. They can still make very good ornaments.
For your jewellery, choose an amethyst with vibrant colour. Amethysts are pretty affordable so going all out is not a guilty pleasure!
Clarity is important as it allows the crystal to reflect light out of the surface. If the stone contains inclusions that hinder the movement of light, it can affect the brilliance of the stone.
Amethysts cut for jewellery is often eye-clean. This means that it does not contain visible flaws. When looking for an amethyst, make sure that there are no inclusions within the stone and that it is bright and clear.
Where in the world do amethysts come from?
Most of the trades’ amethyst comes from Brazil. Other locations for amethyst deposits include Arizona, Uruguay, and Zambia.
Where does an amethyst’s colour come from?
Amethyst gemstones get their purple colour silicon atoms are replaced with iron atoms through the process of irradiation.
How does amethyst compare in value to other quartz gemstones?
In the quarts family, Amethyst is the most highly prized variety.
Can amethyst jewellery be worn every day?
Amethyst is 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It is not as durable as diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, but can still be worn in everyday jewellery.
What determines the value of an amethyst?
Like with any other gemstone, amethyst’s value depends on its colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight. The stone with strong deep purple and reddish-purple hues are the most expensive.