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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Tichina Buckner
Physical Geology
Fall 2017

A Deeper Understanding of the Birthstone from the Greek Culture

     “Happy Birthday,” a song ritually sung on someone’s day of birth.  A birthday is a special occasion that occurs every year, signifying another year of life.  It is a special event often shared between the person and those around them, and every day of each month holds value to someone honoring their day.  Each month holds significance, not specifically for birthdays but for the association of each birth month with their respective gemstone.  Amethyst is one of the easily identified gemstones, usually because of their striking purple color.  Individuals celebrating a birthday in February have the corresponding birthstone of an amethyst.  Gemstones carry many connotations but many lack the knowledge of each stone's past, purpose, and significance.  Amethyst has a history that travels back many years.  Amethyst and its history are fascinating and valuable to understand.  The more we know about Amethysts through their background, meaning, and makeup, the more we can grasp the value and history of the gemstones worth so much more.


     For many years, birthstones have been surrounded by wonder and have made advancements in popularity seen when given as thoughtful gifts.  The amethyst birthstone's past has so many interesting aspects.   One of these aspects would have to be the development of the classification system, specifically in regards to amethyst birthstones.   Now we see that in order for a gemstone to be considered an amethyst, it must be a gem that produces shades of purple.  This specific classification and the gemstone's history has led to the foundation of the color purple being an immediate associating factor with the gemstone.   Founded in Europe, by Ancient Greeks, the amethyst stone dates back to many years ago.  The significant history of the gemstone has developed over many years and still continues to gain meanings today.           

Amethysts: Meanings and Symbols

        Once being founded, amethyst produced multiple interesting meanings of its history.  Many of the meanings that derived from the gem have relations to ancient Greek beliefs.  The indicating shades of Amethyst's purple have incited meanings to be derived from the color specifically.  Purple has been established as the color associated with royalty, and history has observed many royal families displayed in lavish purple attire as a delegated showing of their significance.  Furthermore, Ancient Greeks believed that that the Wine God, Bacchus, had much to do with the causes of the mineral producing shades of purple.  The old Greek tale of a princess by the name of amethyst held key importance of the background of amethyst's history (Wollard). The story has different variations, but essentially it states that the princess was venturing off for the purpose of worship.  Fearing for her life because of an unknown source, she hid in a cave that held many gemstones and was safely sealed inside by the goddess Diana.  Bacchus poured wine over the cave, which then stained the minerals, producing amethyst's color, "and somehow freed the princess" (Smith).  This story led to a belief of how the gem amethysts came to be.  However, not everyone accepted this belief, and many religions created their own beliefs as to what the gemstone was and how it was created. 

         Many rituals were formed around the gem. Those who were suffering from alcoholism were given the gem to wear, and it would keep individuals calm and deter them from drinking. The meaning behind the shades of purple comes from the myth that the gem helps with sobriety (Wollard).  Many years back, Greeks believed that through the color and the gem, it produced powers that would help take away the urge to drink or become drunk.  In Greek, the word “Amethustos” translates to staying sober or staying away from drunkenness (Hiss). The name of the gem has no connection with its color, many individuals believed the name was associated with the gem.

     The title amethyst has much to do with the meanings that comes from the gem.  Smith said that “The Hebrew word for amethyst is “ahlamah,” which means dream” (Smith). The gem was also associated with love and romance. Through the gems history, it gained many meanings that are still associated with amethyst today. Today, there are places that still use this idea or method of thinking in hopes to help ease the want to drink.  Amethyst was also believed to have the power to calm people down and to keep people relaxed. Its many shades were associated with a sense of peace.  Amethyst was said to have many powers that could heal wounds, create a sense of peace, calm the mind, help one stay sober, resemble wealth and much more. Though the history of this gem derived from myths and beliefs, the customs are still used today.


Amethyst: Characteristics and Traits

   Amethyst is a variation of quartzs. The gem is known for producing shades of purple, but it can also produce many shades of purple, light reds, and light pinks (Roskin). The different hues of colors help make the gem so significant.  According to Kim, “the chemical composition of amethysts is SiO2”, which is also known as silicon dioxide. The way the color is produced is through iron and silicon (Kim).  These two help the shades of purple appear and become more vibrant, making the mineral into its true aesthetic. Amethysts are not light in weight and have almost no cleavage so it does not fracture easily.  On the Mohs scale of hardness, amethysts are ranked a seven.  Amethyst consists of quartz which also has a rank of seven; this means that its durability is closer to being a hard material than a mineral like talc.  The crystals are a glass-like material and can be formed in an oval shape or hexagonal shape.

   Amethyst is a beautiful gem that is still very popular today.  The crystals history comes from many myths that are still practiced in some cultures.  Not only does amethyst produce an aesthetic beauty, it is also used for medicinal practices to help individuals suffering from alcoholism.  The mineral is hard and does not break easily because it mostly consists of quartz. The gem can be found in rings, necklaces, beads, and many other things.





Amethyst Crystal image:

Amethyst Heart Image:

Amethyst Jewelry Box:

Amethyst Necklaces:
Hiss, Deborah Ann, and Hedda Walowitz. "Quartz: the starter stone." Jewelers Circular Keystone, Feb. 1989, p. 385+. Business Collection, Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

"Kim's Ameth Top Exporter of Amethyst Gems." Korea Herald, Oct 10, 2001, pp. 1, ProQuest Central,

Roskin, Gary. "Jewel of the Month: Amethyst." Jck, vol. 173, no. 9, 2002, pp. 75, ProQuest Central,

Smith, John M. "Searching for Ontario's Official Gemstone." Belleville EMC, May 24, 2012, ProQuest Central,

Wollard, Kathy. "How Come? DISCOVERIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE." Newsday, May 23, 1995, ProQuest Central,