If you are fortunate enough to have Amethyst as your February birthstone, then you will be wearing a gemstone deeply steeped in history, myths, legends and folklore surrounding the magical properties of the birthstone that have been handed down through the ages. Coveted by royalty and treasured for thousands of years, Amethyst was once reserved for the powerful and wealthy. It is said giving a piece of jewelry that contains a birthstone will bring the wearer good luck and protection. When used as a gemstone, Amethyst is often heat treated to deepen the color or even change it to a light green color, which is given the name “Green Amethyst”.
Amethyst is a quartz crystal that comes in various shades of purpled. The color is caused by iron impurities. It is believed by the ancient Romans that it would prevent drunkenness. The word amethyst comes from the Greek word “amethystus” meaning not drunken or intoxicated.
A large number of miraculous powers are attributed to the amethyst in all sorts of cultures. It was said to protect crops against tempests and locusts, and bring good fortune in war, drive out evil spirits. It was also believed to be a stone of friendship. Since it was thought to put the wearer in a chaste frame of mind it became popular in the ornaments worn by the Catholic clergy over the centuries. The Pope always wears an amethyst ring.
However, the most beautiful of all crystal quartzes also posed one or two puzzles for the scientists, and they still haven’t been completely solved to this day. The amethyst has its hardness (7), its moderate refraction and its weight in common with the other quartzes, but the crystal structure is different, and it is most unconventional. The construction is stratified, as a result of which areas and lamellae of varying color intensity often come about. This explains why there are relatively few large cut amethysts of an evenly distributed dark color, in spite of its having been found so abundantly in all parts of the world. It is only in the last few years that scientists have been fairly certain of having found the real cause of the color. It is now attributed to certain iron constituents in connection with natural radioactive radiation.
Some amethysts pale almost to colorlessness in daylight. The reason for this has not yet been discovered, but it is possible to re-color them by means of radium radiation. The fact that these stones can lose their color makes it obvious that amethyst jewelry should not be worn while sunbathing or under a black light. Sudden changes of temperature can also be harmful to the stone.
The deposits with the greatest economic significance are in various states in southern Brazil and in neighboring Uruguay. The third major export country is Madagascar. However, this gemstone is spread all over the world. Good specimens were found in Aztec graves, though the deposits from which they were extracted are no longer known today. On the Canadian side of Lake Superior in North America, there is a place named Amethyst Harbor. The violet quartz is found there in large quantities, though rarely in gemstone quality.
Amethyst is one of the most popular gems. It has beautiful color and is fairly common, making it an inexpensive and widely used gem.
Not born in February? You can learn more about all of the birthstones on our Birthstone web page.