Amethyst, the birthstone for February, is a variety of quartz which varies in colour from a red-violet to a deep violet.
It is a gemstone symbolizing spiritual growth and protection, and is the most precious and valuable quartz stone except for the rare blue-green silica.
Amethyst carries distinct colors of violet, purple, rose, lavender and mauve, due to the presence of manganese. The colour tends to vary depending on where the stone is found – for example, in Southern Brazil it is usually light violet while in Madagascar it has redder tones. Amethyst is found all over the world, but the largest deposits are in Brazil, Uruguay and Madagascar.
It is a durable substance, measuring 7 on the Moh’s scale, which makes it very popular for ornamental jewelry.
Amethyst comes in a variety of sizes. Most jewelry-grade amethyst stones found are usually about the size of a fist, but pieces have been measuring several meters in length and weighing several tonnes.
It also has similar properties to citrine, which is a gold-colored quartz.
Amethyst was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians.
Its name is derived from the ancient Greek word amethustos, meaning sober, because the Greeks believed it could prevent intoxication. Medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets to protect themselves in battle, believing the stone to be capable of healing people and keeping them cool-headed.
The concept of amethyst symbolizing protection has remained consistent throughout history, and it has been adopted as a means of protecting against illness, nightmares and addiction.
The value of amethyst depends heavily on its colour and clarity, but the fact it is so widespread makes it a generally affordable gemstone.
The most valuable amethyst has a strong reddish purple colour with no visible colour zoning. Darker amethyst is valuable, but not if it is so dark that it looks black in dim light. Any brownish or bronze-colored tints or blemishes tend to lower its value dramatically.
Amethyst is usually untreated. Some stones may be enhanced through heating, but heat changes the colour and transforms it into citrine.
Amethyst is available in just about every shape, cut and size, but it is often cut into rounds or ovals to maximize its colour. It is popular as a large center stone as the price per carat does not rise significantly with bigger sizes.
While it was once only used by royalty, amethyst has become one of the most popular coloured gemstones in the world, due to its availability, affordability and strong colour.
Amethyst is versatile and suitable for everyday wear in pendants, necklaces and rings – but, as with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows.