February's traditional birthstone, pretty purple amethyst is the most valuable gemstone in the quartz group. Amethyst is also special because its crystal structure differs from the other crystal quartzes, even though it has the same hardness, moderate refraction, and weight. Amethyst's stratified construction creates varying color intensity and explains why there are only a select few large gem amethysts with evenly dispersed rich color, even with its abundance around the world. Whether in faceted stones, crystal specimens, polished pebbles, or beads, amethyst has enjoyed popularity in nearly every culture throughout its ancient history.
|While some amethysts can fade under prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and high heat, amethyst is typically a very hardy stone with good hardness and toughness. While steam cleaners should be avoided with amethyst jewelry, it is safe to clean amethysts in ultrasonic cleaners or with simple soap, water, and a soft brush.|
|Amethysts naturally occur in shades of purple, reddish-violet, and violet-blue. Some amethyst crystals, particularly those from Brazil or Uruguay, can become yellowish-brown when heated and are then sold as citrine. |
|As is the case with most colored stones, the intensity and saturation of color is the deciding factor in determining amethyst's value. All other factors (size, clarity, etc.) being equal, the darker the stone, the more valuable it is.|
Name Origin and Meaning
Amethyst gets its name from the Greek words amethystos or amethustos, meaning "not drunken," because of the ancient belief that drinking wine from an amethyst cup--or, unfortunately, grinding amethyst into powder and adding it to wine--would help maintain sobriety.
Amethyst's existence has been known since ancient times. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used amethysts in jewelry and household goods like bowls and cups. Even in ancient Mesopotamia, amethysts were engraved with royal and religious insignia and used as tools to imprint clay tablets. Amethyst has been symbolic of purity and royalty used in jewelry for hundreds of years. Amethyst has long played an important role in religion, as the stone in Christian bishops' rings and in rosaries.
Amethyst geodes as large as adult humans have been discovered in Brazil, like this one in the visitor's entrance at Jewelry Television's headquarters. For reference, that little thing in the bottom right corner is a full-sized laboratory microscope.
Amethyst was considered a symbol of a bishop's fine spirituality in the early Christian church. Amethyst rings soon became a standard part of a bishop's regalia, and for this reason, high-quality, fine-color amethyst is sometimes referred to as "bishop's grade" in the gemstone industry. Read more about Amethyst.