Gem-A gemmology tutor Lily Faber FGA EG explores the history of amethyst and its significance as the February birthstone.
Amethyst is a well-known, purple variety of quartz that is February’s birthstone. Fashioned pieces can vary from a lighter lavender to a deep, saturated purple.
In ancient Greece, it was believed that if worn or used as a drinking vessel, the wearer would be protected from becoming drunk, hence, its name is derived from the Greek words meaning “not drunken”.
Read more: What is the Meaning of Amethyst?
It is also believed by some that the stone will bring you luck, serve as an antidote to poison, increase your intelligence and protect you from magic spells.
Amethyst quartz with ribbon-like inclusions. Image by Pat Daly.
Various localities include India, the USA, Australia and Brazil, which is one of the most important sources today. Historically, amethyst was mined in Siberia and Saxony (Germany).
Amethysts in History
In keeping with February’s holiday of St. Valentine’s Day, it is said that St. Valentine wore a signet ring set with an amethyst intaglio carved with an image of Cupid.
Amethyst was also worn in the finger rings of bishops, and can be found in the Crown Jewels fashioned as a faceted orb sitting atop the Star of Africa diamond in the sovereign's sceptre.
Amethyst quartz with tiger stripe inclusions. Image by Pat Daly.
Historically, aristocratic and royal families the world over have prized the gem in different eras. One such monarch was Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, who owned a gorgeous amethyst tiara containing several high quality large, oval-shaped stones from the mines of Siberia.
She also commissioned a necklace that could also be converted into a tiara. These pieces are sadly no longer in the Royal Collection as they were sold at auction in the 1940s.
Amethyst quartz jewellery set. Image by Pat Daly.
Amethyst Crystals, Inclusions and Colours
If sold as a rough specimen, amethysts are often seen as individual crystals with one broken end where it was detached from the host rock. More often, they are sold in the form of a geode cluster.
Geodes are cavities or pockets that are lined with many crystals of various sizes. Often, the colour is concentrated in the tips of the crystals, thus leading to a great variety in saturation of colour from pale to deep purple.
Read more: Gem Quality Amethyst From Rwanda
An inclusion that is typical, if not diagnostic of amethyst, is the tiger stripe. It is a healed fracture that can occur when the stone twins. Amethysts are either one consistent colour or have angular colour banding with alternating light and dark colour zones.
Amethyst Care and Caution
Amethyst is a relatively hard stone at 7 on the Mohs’ Scale of Hardness, but only just! It is softer than other stones like sapphires, and as such, can be susceptible to chips and fracture.
The colour of some stones can fade when exposed to sunlight, so take care if displaying in a vitrine or shop window. When cleaning, do not use an ultrasonic cleaner in case there are any small inclusions or internal fractures that may expand during cleaning. Use warm soapy water and a very soft brush to clear away dirt.
Read more Gem-A Birthstone Guides here.
Cover image: Amethyst crystal quartz with detachment marks. Image by Pat Daly, Gem-A.
The varied hues of spinel have been admired for hundreds of years, but this gemstone only recently found its place on the list of ‘alternative birthstones’. Here, Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores the alternative birthstone for the month of August and some of its synthetic counterparts.
Those born in August have vibrant green peridot as their birthstone. Lily Faber FGA DGA EG delves into this zesty gemstone to find out more about its physical properties and fascinating history.
Do you have a passion for diamonds, gemstones and the science of gemmology but have no idea where to start? Take a look at our guide to the Gem-A Gemmology Foundation and the things you should consider before taking this highly respected beginner’s gemmology course.
Our series of discovery into the Gem-A Gemstone & Mineral Collection continues with the brilliantly eye-catching tanzanite. Gem-A assistant gemmology tutor, Charles Bexfield FGA, delves into the history and unique properties of tanzanite and explores what makes this relatively new gemmological find so special.
Are you fascinated by a career that utilises a gemmology skill set? Or perhaps you have completed your Gem-A Gemmology Diploma and want to know what’s next? Take a look at our guide to the opportunities open to gemmologists… you may be surprised!
Although all diamonds are special, there are some that are historically significant, spectacularly large and hugely important for gemmological research. Here, Rona Bierrum FGA DGA EG pinpoints the five diamonds that stand out from the crowd for gemmologists the world over.
The Mazarin diamonds were a collection of 18 diamonds left to Louis XIV and the French Crown Jewels by Cardinal Jules Mazarin. Discovering the story of this group of diamonds, the man who collected them and what happened to them is like an incredible work of fiction. Charlotte Pittel FGA DGA takes us through their fascinating history.
Queen Victoria famously shared a love of fine jewels and coloured gemstones with her beloved husband, Prince Albert. In fact, one of her most prized possessions - a sapphire and diamond coronet - was designed and commissioned by Prince Albert in 1840. Here, we delve into the story behind this beautiful piece of history.
After 10 years and 4.2 million visitors, The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) has reopened its William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, home to its jewellery collection, after a three-month refurbishment with eighty new pieces joining the display.
Treasured the world over for their timeless elegance, lustre and iridescent, multi-tonal colours, pearls have for hundreds of years been a favourite of high-end jewellers and collectors alike. But how can you tell the difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls? And what should we look for when buying?