Amethyst: The Color for Kings
Amethyst has long been a favorite gem of kings and queens
for its royal purple hues. The gem, the most precious
member of the quartz family, exhibits color ranging
from pale lilac to deep purple. Amethysts are featured
in the British Crown Jewels and were worn by Catherine
the Great as well as Egyptian royalty.
Through the ages, various special properties have also
been prescribed to amethyst. The Greeks and Romans considered
it a strong antidote against drunkenness and drank wine
from goblets carved out of the gem. Leonardo Da Vinci
wrote that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and
quicken the intelligence. The stone also is supposed
to bring peace of mind to the wearer and prevent fatal
In some legends, the stone also represents piety, celibacy
and dignity. In Tibet, for instance, amethyst is considered
sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often made from it.
In the Middle Ages, the gem was an important ornamentation
for the Catholic Church and other religions. In fact,
it was considered the stone of bishops, and they still
often wear amethyst rings.
The birthstone for February, amethyst is an extremely
popular gem for jewelry because of its regal color,
variety of sizes and shapes, affordability and wide
range of hues. It also is the recommended gem for couples
celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary.
The stone is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and
Argentina, as well as in Zambia, Namibia and other African
nations. Very dark amethyst in small sizes also is mined
in Australia. But the ideal for fine quality amethyst
was set by a Siberian variety, often called Russian
or Uralian amethyst, which is now considered a defunct
Generally, South American amethyst tends to come in
larger sizes than African amethyst. But the African
variety has a reputation for having deeper color intensity
and is therefore considered more valuable. The African
version also is harder to come by than amethyst mined
from South America. Most of today's amethyst comes out
The finest and most valuable amethysts are very clear,
with very deep color (and they sometimes exhibit reddish
or rose overtones). Some stones are so oversaturated
with color they have areas that are blacked out, which
can negatively impact their value.
Amethyst is available in a wide range of calibrated
sizes and shapes, including many fancy cuts. Large fine
stones are sold in free sizes but generally the stone
is cut in standardized dimensions. Paler shades, sometimes
called "Rose of France", were common in Victorian
jewelry. Banding - darker and lighter zones of color
- is also a common occurrence. Occasionally, amethyst
is even found combined with its sister quartz citrine
into a single stone called ametrine.
The most common enhancements to amethyst are heat and
irradiation. The stone, which ranks a 7 on the Mohs
hardness scale, is considered durable enough for everyday
wear. However, care should be taken not to expose the
gem to excessive amounts of bright sunlight, as this
can cause its color to fade.