The modern birthstone for the month of February is amethyst. Long associated with royalty due to its intense violet hue, amethyst was at one time ranked as one of the precious stones, along with sapphire, ruby and emerald. Amethyst was reclassified as a semi-precious stone when large deposits were found in Brazil in Uruguay in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Though amethyst is no longer rare, it continues to be the most valuable form of quartz. Its color is quite unique in the gems world. Though fluorite and spinel can also occur in a deep violet, and you will sometimes find sapphire and tourmaline in purple, amethyst is the only gemstone whose primary color is violet. Amethyst can display all the violet hues from the palest lavender to the deepest purple.
Amethyst has been known for centuries, and many powers have become associated with it over time. The ancient Greeks associated amethyst with wine, probably due to its grape-like color, and they believed it had the power to protect from intoxication. In fact the name amethyst comes from the Greek word for sober, amethystos. The Greeks commonly served wine in goblets made from amethyst.
The association of amethyst with sobriety has a long tradition that continues to this day. The Catholic church considered amethyst a symbol of spirituality and piety, and bishops and priests commonly wore amethyst rings. Amethyst is associated with stability, balance, peace, courage, sincerity, inner strength and a calm disposition.
The most important deposits are in South America, particularly Brazil and Uruguay. African amethyst, though found mainly in small sizes, is highly regarded for its excellent color saturation. But amethyst is found in many locations in the world, including Canada, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Russia, Sri Lanka, the United States, Italy and Germany.
In choosing a fine amethyst, look for good color saturation and color consistency, and very good clarity. Though color is mainly a matter of taste, the dark rich purple tends to be more valuable than the paler lilac shades. Amethyst can be found in a wide range of cuts and sizes, including cabochons, brilliants, emerald cut, portuguese cut and checkerboard cut. Since amethyst is a form of quartz, it has very good hardness (7 on the Mohs scale) and no cleavage.
- First Published: December-15-2008
- Last Updated: March-03-2011
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