Amethyst is in the quartz family of minerals, and is considered to be the most precious of the quartz crystals. Its violet-purple color has captivated people for thousands of years…its “royal” color adorned by men and women, kings and commoners; amethyst has been a symbol of power and sobriety going back to ancient times. Also called “the stone of bishops”, it was often worn to protect against intoxication (from the Greek word “amethystos” = not drunken), and thus many amethyst wine goblets were created in antiquity.
Amethyst is the official birthstone for the month of February, and the zodiacal sign of Pisces. Amethyst is purple due to iron and aluminum contained in the mineral, and it would be clear quartz without these “impurities”. Amethyst can also be heat-treated to make citrine (see our November Blog), bi-color citrine / amethyst, and green amethyst.
Amethyst is mined all over the world in great quality / quantity, and ranges in color from light to dark violet / purple. The most expensive specimens are typically a dark intense purple. When selecting amethyst stones or jewelry, you should select stones that are transparent and free from inclusions. Amethyst is a durable stone, rating 7 on the Mohs scale, and it is cut into a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Due to a plentiful supply, amethyst should be relatively inexpensive when compared to other stones of similar cut and weight like sapphires, rubies, or emeralds.
Here are the predominate types of amethyst:
African Amethyst- Usually darker and deeply colored
Amethyst Quartz- A mixture of amethyst and milky to clear quartz, usually purple at the tips of the crystal, then blending to white or clear at the base
Brazilian Amethyst- Refers to any amethyst from South America
Green Amethyst- Heat-treated amethyst
Siberian Amethyst- Deeply colored amethyst from Siberia
- Although amethyst is found in the United States, it is rarely found as “jewelry-grade”.
Amethyst, like any other gemstone, is purported to have healing properties, and is said to be of help for certain ailments. Though this is likely due to the old placebo effect, we’re going to list them nonetheless because you never know…amethyst may assist in relief from headaches, backaches, pancreatic disorders, and alcoholism.
Due to its durability and hardness, amethyst cleans up easily. Just use a mild soap with a soft-bristled toothbrush or soft cloth and warm water. Rinse and dry, and remember to store your amethyst in a fabric lined jewelry box, or wrap in a soft cloth to keep scratches at bay. Please remember to remove any jewelry when using cleaning chemicals such as bleach!
The Duchess of Windsor's Cartier bib-style necklace features 29 step-cut amethysts, a large heart-shaped amethyst in the front, turquoise cabochons, and brilliant cut diamonds, all set in gold suspended from a very strong gold rope-like chain. After the Duchess’ death in 1986, the necklace sold at a Sotheby’s Geneva auction in 1987 for $605,000.