Modified: January 2012
by George Williams, Choi Asawapongpanich, and Robson Campos
Today, when one is searching for the premier source of fine quality amethyst, look no further than the country of Uruguay. The second smallest South American country, Uruguay is snuggled between the much larger countries of Argentina and Brazil in the southern part of the continent. While Brazil may be the more prolific producer of amethyst, it is Uruguay that is the source of some of the finest amethyst gems known today.
Don’t be surprised to see fiery flashes of red in these stones, which only adds to their beauty and desirability. Unlike amethysts from so many other parts of the world, no heat is needed to bring out the intensely rich violet hues of this gem. Uruguayan amethysts typically display a rich velvety look that reminds George Williams, one of JTV’s Senior Gemstone Buyers, of the difference between Kashmir and Ceylon sapphire. They have an incredibly rich luster that glows like coal rather than shining like fire; and purple hues that are unmatched when compared to the brighter crystals (with more diluted colors) that make up most of the production worldwide.
Mined in the northern region of Uruguay’s Artigas Department, the amethyst rough is sent to Brazil, one of the finest cutting centers in the world. The technique used for cutting Uruguayan amethyst is very different than the technique used for cutting amethyst from other locations. These stones are easily distinguishable from other amethysts and are well known for the frequency of their carvable peaks (beaks). When cutting the crystals, the table facet is placed in the center of the stone, which causes a huge amount of rough loss during cutting. Uruguayan amethyst is highly desired in many of the world-wide markets, including Europe, Japan, China, Australia and the U.S.
JTV's worldwide team strives to keep our customers updated about the latest market information on the gemstones we sell. Concerning present-day availability of Uruguayan amethyst, this team has discovered that the major production coming from the mine is small in size. Larger, top color rough that is suitable for cutting gems in sizes 10x8mm and up can only be found in handfuls. Production of the ‘supreme’ color material is currently about 2-3kg per month, and there is much competition from the worldwide markets for this material. Some gems will have zoning, but every stone is cut to "face up" perfectly with visible zoning when mounted in jewelry. The only other amethyst that comes close Uruguayan amethyst in color is the African material, but it is more included in the larger sizes. The only reason Uruguayan amethyst has been available in the past two years is because the Asian market hasn’t been purchasing all of the natural geodes from which it was cut. But once again, the demand is beginning to increase.
Modified June 2011