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Birthstones
Michael Schweska
Physical Geology
Spring 2005

 

                                              February Gemstone-Amethyst

 
Amethyst is the official birthstone for February as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is also the birth stone for the Zodiac sign of Pisces. Amethyst is suggested as a gem to give on the 4th, 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries. Amethyst is 7.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Amethyst is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina and some African countries. Generally, Amethyst from South America tends to be available in larger sizes than African Amethyst but amethyst from Africa has the reputation for having better, more saturated, color in small sizes. Very dark Amethyst, mostly in small sizes, is also mined in Australia. Dark rich, royal colors of Amethyst have been treasured by kings and queens for centuries and can be traced back to the Minoan period in Greece (c. 2500 B.C.). During the 15th century the French fleur-de-lis brooch could only be worn by the Royal family on ceremonial occasions. Amethyst is used as faceted stones or polished cabochons and is carved in various shapes. Amethyst beads are used in necklaces, earrings and other jewelry in both rough unpolished forms, smooth glossy shapes, faceted beads and briolettes. Amethyst Click here for a picture in natural form. Click here for more faceted and natural specimens.

Description:

Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz and the most valued member of the quartz family. It must be purple to be amethyst, but it can display a range of shades including deep purple, light lilac, lavender and mauve. Top quality amethyst is a deep medium purple with rose- colored flashes. Its purple color made it a stone of royalty for many thousands of years. Most Amethyst gemstones on the market today are heat-treated to produce a deeper color. Heat treating is permanent and these stones will not fade over time. Unless otherwise stated, assume that any Amethyst you purchase today has been heat treated to increase the depth of color. Amethyst gets its name from the Greek word "amethystos" translated as "not drunken" or "sober".

Chemistry:

The formula for Amethyst is a variety of Quartz, SiO2, Quartz-Silicon Oxide. Amethyst can occur as long prismatic crystals that have a six sided pyramid at either end or can form as druzes that are crystalline crusts covering the host rock that only show the pointed terminations. It is found inside geodes and in alluvial deposits all around the world and occurs in both crystalline or massive forms. When manganese is present in clear quartz Amethyst is produced, while the amount of iron contained in the specimen accounts for the depth of purple.

Amethyst is only one of several quartz varieties. Other varieties that form macroscopic (large enough to see) crystals are as follows:
  • Citrine is a yellow to orange gemstone variety that is rare in nature but is often created by heating Amethyst.
  • Milky Quartz is the cloudy white variety.
  • Rock crystal is the clear variety that is also used as a gemstone.
  • Rose quartz is a pink to reddish pink variety.
  • Smoky quartz is the brown to gray variety.

Legends, Myths and Healing Properties:

Amethyst The legend of the origin of Amethyst comes from Greek myths. Dionysius, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a mere mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysius wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today. Throughout history Amethyst has been used to guard against drunkenness and is thought to be helpful in overcoming addiction. Amethyst was also thought to encourage celibacy. Because of that, Amethyst was very important in the ornamentation of churches in the Middle Ages. Bishops still often wear amethyst rings. In Tibet, Amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it. It has been used for hearing disorders, insomnia, headaches and other pain. Some sources suggest it is used to stabilize mental disorders. Worn to make the wearer gentle and amiable. Amethyst powers include: dreams, healing, peace, love, spiritual upliftment, courage, psychism, protection against thieves, and happiness.