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.
In his third Gemstone Conversations column for Gems&Jewellery, Jewellery Historian and Valuer John Benjamin FGA DGA FIRV explores the fascinating history of turquoise and its use in jewellery design from the Shahs of Persia to the Art Deco design movement.
If you're lucky enough to be born in January, vibrant garnet is your birthstone. A rainbow jewel of the gem world, garnet displays the greatest variety of colour of any mineral and is very often untreated, making it a rarity in the gem world.
Iridescence has to be one of the most mesmerising and magical optical effects seen in gemstones. But have you ever wondered how it occurs? Gem-A's Collection Curator Barbara Kolator FGA DGA shines a light on this fascinating optical effect and tells us about the gems that are most likely to display it.
Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Pat Daly FGA DGA offers us a glimpse at some of the more unusual items in Gem-A's Gemstones and Minerals Collection.
Are you looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers tanzanite – one of three birthstones for December – and shares how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.
Beautiful blue turquoise is one of three birthstones for the month of December (in addition to zircon and tanzanite). It is enriched with real cultural significance that can be traced back thousands of years. Here, we explore the blue shades of turquoise and explain what makes this gemstone so special...
Chatoyancy is the gemmological name given to the curious optical effect in which a band of light is reflected in cabochon-cut gemstones, creating an appearance similar to light bouncing off a cat's eye. Gem-A's Collection Curator, Barbara Kolator FGA DGA explains chatoyancy and highlights some of the many gems in which it can occur.
Jade has long been revered by gem lovers internationally, but nowhere more so than in China. But what is it that makes this gemstone so special? Gem-A's Assistant Gemmology Tutor Dr Juliette Hibou FGA gives us an overview of jade, how to identify it and its significance in Chinese culture.
The Gem-A Conference is always the highlight of our gemmological calendar! If you didn’t manage to make it, we’ve put together a few of the highlights from this year’s event to fill you in on what you missed, and whet your appetite for Gem-A Conference 2020!