February's Birthstone: Amethyst
Amethyst’s history is as rich as its brilliant purple coloring. Throughout history, this striking violet representative of the quartz family has been coveted by princes both ecclesiastical and secular. Moses described it as a symbol of the Spirit of God, and it was worn in the official robes of the High Priest of the Jews. Catherine the Great sent thousands of Russian miners into the Urals to search for it.
A large number of fantastical powers have attributed to the amethyst, across many different cultures. The stone has been said to protect crops against locusts, bring wartime fortune and luck in the hunt, drive out evil, inspire intellect, quell excessive stomach acid, combat insect bites, beautify the skin, and promote friendship. Amethyst is said to protect from seduction, and because of it’s chastity-promoting characteristics, became a prominent stone in the Catholic ornamentation for centuries. It is said to be ‘the stone’ of the bishops and cardinals. Amethyst even has some strange, very specific lore surrounding it concerning its protective qualities. The works of Pliny reveal the idea that Amethyst, when worn around the neck on a cord fashioned from dog’s hair, can protect from snakebite. Hieronymous later reported that eagled place the stone in their nests to protect their young from snakebite as well.
In contemporary popular belief, the amethyst is even said to offer protection against drunkenness (the ancients used to drink from Amethyst cups). This likely comes from the Greek word 'amethystos', which, translated, means 'not intoxicated'. In all likelihood, this concept probably relates more to the almost, but not quite wine-color exhibited by the stone. Also symbolic of spirituality and piety, many people believe the wearing of amethyst allows one to channel positive universal energy. Modern gemstone therapists claim that Amethyst has a sobering and cleansing effect on the body.
Since we here at MAKE MADE are South Carolinians, we were surprised to learn that Amethyst is the official South Carolina gemstone! It was signed into law by Governor Robert McNair on June 24, 1969. One of the best specimens of amethyst ever found was in 1965 on a property near Due West, South Carolina. This fifteen-pound cluster of amethyst crystals of rich purple color is currently displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. In 2008, another amazing discovery was found at the Diamond Hill Quartz Prospect, near the town of Antreville, South Carolina. An amethyst, weighing 118 pounds, was carefully extracted to reveal a spectrum of purple crystals measuring up to 14 inches long. It is the biggest cluster of pure amethyst crystals ever found in the state and perhaps all of North America. This tremendous find is on permanent exhibit in the Natural History section of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, South Carolina.
To be a true amethyst, the stone must be purple, although it’s hue can vary from deep violet to a lighter, almost clear lavender. You’ll mainly see Amethyst stones set as brilliant round cuts due to the often patchiness of their color distribution. Other shapes are permissible when the color is more uniform, but remember, all amethyst is always purple. Any other color of quartz goes by a different name – Citrine, Prasiolite, Rose Quartz, etc. "Green amethyst" has gained a lot of popularity recently, however, this name is misapplied. Green amethyst is indeed a member of the quartz family, but the true name for this leek green gem is Prasiolite.
Amethyst can be purchased at a variety of price points in modern times, as there are different characteristics that are rarer than others. The rule of thumb is -- the deeper the color and/or the less blemished the stone, the more valuable it is. This is because these two factors are hard to find, and even harder to find together.
The best part about Amethyst?! This brilliant beauty of a stone is, in modern times, incredibly more affordable than it once was, thanks to the discovery of newer 19th century mines. The affordability of Amethyst, even more valuable specimen, makes it easy to invest in a stunning piece and feel like royalty each and every time you wear it!
Gifting Amethyst: Though not considered a traditional anniversary gift, modern gift guides suggest that Amethyst be gifted on the 6th year anniversary. Amethyst always makes a wonderful birthstone gift as well.
Origins: Amethysts occur across the Globe. Due to variation in color and clarity, many times a gem expert can often identify a particular region of origin, and in some cases, even the particular mine a stone originated from.
Historically, the majority of Amethysts were mined in Russia and these stones presented some of the most magnificent color.
Some of the most beautiful Amethysts were discovered in Aztec graves, although the deposit source is no longer known today.
Today most Amethyst is imported from sources located in the 19th century, including Brazil, Uruguay, Zambia, and Madagascar.
Amethyst Harbor on the Canadian side of Lake Superior is a popular North American source, although gemstone quality specimen are rare. German sources exist as well.
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