Throughout History Amethyst has been one of the most popular and mystical of all gemstones. Its use in rudimentary jewellery can be traced back as far as the Neolithic period (approx 4000BC) and samples of it set into gold rings have been uncovered in burial sites from around 2400BC.
Amethyst is the name given to purple quartz, and some believe that its name comes from the Greek word “Amethustos”, “A” meaning “not” and “methustos” meaning “to intoxicate”. In ancient times, wealthy lords who wanted to stay sober were said to have had drinking glasses or goblets made from Amethyst. While pouring wine for their guest they could serve themselves water, as the dark purple hue of the gem would disguise the colour of the drink, allowing the lord to appear to be drinking the same alcohol as their guests. Following the same theme, it was thought in ancient times if you wished to save a drunkard from delirium you could mix crushed Amethyst into a person’s drink.
One legend from Greek mythology tells the tale of how Dionysus, the god of intoxication, took his fury out on a young beautiful maiden named Amethyst while on her way to pray to the goddess Diana. He let loose fierce tigers, but before they reached Amethyst, Diana turned her into a statue of pure Crystalline Quartz, to protect her from the tigers. When Dionysus realised what he had almost done to Amethyst, he cried tears of wine. Legend says his tears turned the colourless Quartz purple, thus creating Amethyst.
Amethyst appears in many shades, from alight, slightly lavender pinkish to a deep purple similar to that of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Amethyst is also pleochronic, which means that when light hits the gemstone, shades of different colours such as reds and blues can be seen from different angles.
As there is no single dominant organisation or ruling body relating to gemstones, there are often different approaches as to how a gem is graded or named. Many organisations within the jewellery industry for instance refer to Green Quartz as Green Amethyst, while others refer to Green Quarts as Prasiolite, Amergreen or Vermarine. This is a really hot topic within the Gem world: some believing that the name Amethyst can only be applied to purple Quartz, others say if a Quartz’s green colour is created from heat treated Amethyst, then it should be named Green Amethyst and others saying it should be known as Green Quartz or Prasiolite. Most Green Amethyst has been available since the mid 1950’s, and has come from Brazil which has been heat treated to produce and electrifying transparent olive coloured green gemstone.
Amethyst is a hard and durable gemstone measuring 7 on the Mohs scale. In its rough state, the gem often forms in long prismatic crystals, making it ideal for cutting. Because its colour can often appear banded, it is usually cut into round brilliant shapes, which helps the gem display a more uniformed colour when viewed through the table or crown caplets. Amethyst is considered a symbol of peace of mind, modesty and piety. Some believe that Amethyst holds powers to change anger to tranquillity and is used by crystal healers to revert negative energy into positive energy. It is popular for it healing and medative powers, and purifies the mind body and spirit, helping to realign the chakras. It is also considered the ideal gemstone for those struggling or recovering from alcoholism as it protects against drunkenness.
Amethyst is the birthstone for February. It is also associated with the zodiac sign Pisces, Aries, Aquarius and Sagittarius. The Gem is mined in Several Countries including, USA, Brazil, Madagascar and Kenya.