These winter days sometimes feel so cold and grey. What better way to refocus your energy than to gaze at the soothing hues of lavender and plum found in one of the world’s most popular semiprecious gemstones, Amethyst!
Amethyst is the name for the purple variety of the mineral Quartz, and its purple colors come from trace amounts of iron in the crystal’s chemical composition. Along with natural heat and irradiation in the crystal’s growth environment, this produces a range of purple tones.
Many people associate amethyst with a single, saturated purple color, but in fact it ranges in tone from nearly imperceptible pale lilac to deep merlot. Color zoning, in which bands or areas of distinctly different colors form in a single crystal, is also quite common in amethyst. Depending on how a raw crystal is cut, it can sometimes even reveal the crystal’s hexagonal crystal structure, as seen in “chevron amethyst” which is cut to display a cross-section of a single crystal displaying these bands of color.
You’ll sometimes see gemstones advertised as “green amethyst,” but this is considered a misnomer as “amethyst” refers specifically to purple quartz. The proper name for this gemstone is prasiolite. In nature, this greenish color of quartz occurs when pale amethyst is heated or irradiated by natural sources. However, this color of quartz is much less abundant; gemologists have learned to heat amethyst in a lab environment to reach a pale green color, increasing this lovely stone’s availability in the gemstone trade.
The purple color connotes power and royalty, and the gem’s durability and ability to be shaped into different types of cut stones made it a versatile and celebrated gemstone throughout history. Amethyst is abundant in today’s gemstone market, but before the largest mine deposits of amethyst were discovered in South America in the 19th century, they were rare and highly prized alongside sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Despite this, for thousands of years they have been worn for in royal and religious jewelry, and celebrated as for their beauty and metaphysical properties.
Amethyst historically is believed to serve as a protective amulet, promising the wearer clarity of thought and a quick wit. Because of its color, amethyst is associated with the Greek god of wine, Bacchus, and was also believed to provide protection against drunkenness. It was even believed that drinking wine from a chalice carved of amethyst would prevent intoxication! While we can’t speak to the efficacy of those anti-intoxication properties, the beautiful range of purples found in amethyst can indeed stir our passions, sooth our nerves, or connect us to a sense of power and confidence.
Enjoy a little bit of this amazing, powerful gemstone in our February birthstone collection!