Treasured by the ancient Romans, amethyst was worn as a talisman to ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus. Amethyst comes from the Greek “amethystos” which means “not drunken.”
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myth. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day 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. The terrified girl asked to be spared the pain of the brutal claws so Diana turned her into a statue of pure crystalline quartz. At the sight, Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse. The god’s tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today.
Since the middle ages, Bishop’s rings have been set with amethyst as a symbol of piety and celibacy. Leonardo da Vinci wrote that amethyst has the power to protect against evil thoughts and to sharpen the intelligence. Buddhists believe that amethyst enhances the peace and tranquility of meditation, making it the preferred choice for Tibetan rosaries even today.
Amethyst, the traditional birthstone for the month of February, is available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including very large sizes. The Smithsonian Institution has an amethyst that weighs more than 1,000 carats. Of course, very large sizes in rich, deep colours have always been rare.
Designers celebrate amethyst as an ideal gemstone for jewellery because of its royal colour, variety of sizes and shapes, affordability, and wide tonal range, from pale lavender to dark purple. Amethyst is complements both warm and cool colours so it looks right set in both yellow and white metals. This chameleon quality means it complements almost every colour in your wardrobe.
Mined mainly in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and African countries like Zambia and Namibia, small amounts of amethyst are also found in Arizona at the Four Peaks mine near Phoenix.
There is also a synthetic amethyst that is made in labs in Russia, China, and other places. Only a few labs can separate it from natural amethyst, so use care when buying from dubious sources.
Amethyst is the mineral quartz, with a hardness of 7. It’s durable and great for everyday wear. Clean with mild dish soap: use a toothbrush to scrub behind the stone where dust can collect. Avoid exposure to high heat, which may cause its colour to fade.