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Amethyst is of the most popular gemstones among crystal collectors and lapidary aficionados. For over 2,000 years, people have admired this stone for its extravagant beauty and shimmer in the form of cabochons, facets, beads, ornamental objects, and tumbled stones.
Because this is such an ancient gem, it has a rich history and folklore. Native Americans, royalty, Buddhists, and ancient Greeks have held it in high regard for centuries. It boasts many healing properties that include physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what amethyst is as well as its history, uses, meaning, and symbolism.
What is Amethyst?
Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust, and amethyst is formed when silicon dioxide is subjected to high pressure and heat, causing the formation of tiny, needle-like inclusions of iron or other impurities that give the stone its violet color. When mined, it appears in massive or crystalline form within a geode, a spherical rock that, when opened, reveals a surprise of breathtaking purple crystals.
Amethyst is slightly translucent to opaque with a gravity range of 2.6 to 2.7. It sits at 7 on the Moh’s hardness scale, making it a rather tough material. This crystal is the traditional birthstone for those born in the month of February.
A semiprecious stone, amethyst is used in jewelry because of its attractive color and durability. In the past, it was illegal for commoners. To wear amethyst as only the Royals and upper-class nobility were allowed to wear it. But in recent decades large deposits of amethyst were found. This brought the price down and made amethyst accessible to all. Today, it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other precious stones.
Where to Find Amethyst
Amethyst is found in many places around the world, including Brazil, Uruguay, Madagascar, Siberia, and the United States. It’s often found in geodes, which are hollow cavities in rocks that are filled with crystals. Amethyst can also be found in alluvial deposits, where it’s been washed downstream by rivers and streams.
This stone is also found in the cavities of rocks, where it forms crystals that can be extracted and used in jewelry. Some of the most famous amethyst deposits are in the Ural Mountains of Russia, the Thunder Bay area of Canada, and the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil.
Some other places to find amethyst deposits include Peru, Canada, India, Mexico, France, Madagascar, Myanmar, Russia, Morocco, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Namibia. While the state of Arizona has the largest deposit, Montana, and Colorado are also excellent sources.
The Color of Amethyst
The crowning feature of amethyst is its eye-catching shades of purple and various hues from reddish violet to light lavender. The color can range from a light, almost pinkish purple to a deep, rich violet.
The intensity of the color is determined by the amount of iron present in the crystal, with more iron resulting in a deeper, more intense color. Some amethyst crystals may also have hints of red or blue, depending on the trace elements present in the crystal.
How an amethyst crystal becomes purple is an interesting phenomenon. During crystal growth, trace amounts of silicate, iron, and manganese incorporate into a piece of quartz housed inside a stone.
Once crystallized, gamma rays from radioactive materials within the host rock irradiate the iron. This is what gives amethyst its various shades and hues of purple. When light enters the amethyst crystal, it is absorbed by the iron ions, which cause the crystal to appear violet.
The iron content dictates the purple’s intensity as well as at what stages of growth the iron injects into it. Amethyst grows slowly and steadily while the water composition around the host rock delivers the iron and silicate needed for growth and colorization. Therefore, darker amethysts mean there’s a lot of iron while lighter shades indicate very little.
History & Lore of Amethyst
Amethyst was and is still one of the most highly prized gemstones by cultures, religions, and people all over the world. Chief among these are the ancient Greeks, who called the purple rock amethustos, which means not drunken. The Greeks would serve wine in amethyst glasses to stave off drunkenness. This practice comes from a myth involving Artemis, the goddess of wilderness and virgins, and Dionysus, god of debauchery and wine.
Artemis and Dionysus
The story goes that Dionysus fell in love with a mortal called Amethyst. He became angry when Amethyst rejected his advances. In his anger, Dionysus poured a jug of wine over the mortal, turning her into a statue of pure crystalline quartz.
The goddess Artemis, who was the protector of virgins, felt sorry for Amethyst and turned her into a beautiful violet gemstone to protect her from further harm. This is why amethyst is associated with spiritual purity and sobriety.
In another version of the myth, Dionysus is filled with remorse, and weeps wine-colored tears, turning the stone purple,
Other cultures and religions also revere amethyst. For instance, Buddhists believe it enhances meditation and it’s often found on Tibetan prayer beads.
Throughout history, purple has been a regal color and has appeared in royal and religious relics. There are various theories postulating that some Spanish crown jewels may come from the Four Peaks mine or the large deposit in Brazil via Spanish explorers.
Additional evidence for this comes from the fact that amethysts were as valuable and expensive as emeralds, rubies, and diamonds up until the earliest parts of the 19th century.
How Native Americans Used Amethyst
The amethyst deposit in Arizona at the Four Peaks Mine has a well-been part of Native Americans living in the area. Namely, the Hopi and Navajo tribes valued the stone for its beauty and color. Archaeologists found nearby arrowheads comprised of amethyst matching the styles of those tribes.
Amethyst’s Healing Properties
It’s believed that amethyst has certain healing properties and has been used in a variety of different ways throughout history. Some people believe that it can help promote calmness and clarity of mind and can also be used to reduce anxiety and stress. It’s also thought to be a powerful protective stone that can help to shield the wearer from negative energies and harm.
Additionally, amethyst is said to have certain medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of different conditions, including insomnia, headaches, and arthritis.
Throughout history, amethyst has been used as an elixir for heart, digestion, skin, teeth, anxiety, headaches, arthritis, pain, alcoholism, insomnia, and mental health problems. It’s believed to reinforce posture and skeletal structure, including stimulation of the endocrine and nervous systems.
Amethyst is a popular crystal used in chakra balancing because it’s associated with the crown chakra, which is the energy center located at the top of the head. This chakra is associated with spirituality and higher consciousness, and amethyst is believed to help open and activate this chakra.
Amethyst is also associated with calming and relaxing energy, making it useful for reducing stress and anxiety. It’s often used in meditation and other spiritual practices to help clear the mind and promote a sense of inner peace. Additionally, amethyst is believed to have powerful healing properties and is used to help relieve physical and emotional pain.
To use amethyst for chakra balancing, it can be placed on the crown chakra during meditation, carried with you throughout the day, or placed in your environment to help promote a sense of calm and balance.
How to Use Amethyst
Amethyst is a popular gemstone that is often used in jewelry. It’s the birthstone for February and is known for its beautiful purple color. It’s also used as a healing stone and is believed to have various properties that can help with physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
In addition to being used in jewelry and for healing, amethyst is also used in other ways, such as in decorative objects, figurines, and ornamental carvings. Some people also use amethyst in meditation and spiritual practices, as it’s believed to have calming and grounding effects.
How to Clean and Care for Amethyst
Here are some tips for caring for amethyst:
- Avoid exposing amethyst to extreme temperatures, as this can cause the stone to crack or break.
- Avoid exposing amethyst to harsh chemicals, such as bleach or household cleaners. These can damage the surface of the stone or cause it to fade.
- Store amethyst away from other gemstones and hard objects that could scratch or damage it.
- Clean amethyst gently with warm water and mild soap. Use a soft cloth or brush to gently scrub the stone, and rinse it thoroughly with warm water.
- Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners or steam cleaners on amethyst, as these can damage the stone.
- If your amethyst jewelry has a setting, be careful not to snag or catch it on clothing or other objects. This can damage the setting and loosen the stone.
Overall, proper care and handling will help keep your amethyst looking beautiful and preserved for years to come.
What Gemstones Pair Well with Amethyst?
Amethyst is a beautiful and versatile gemstone that can be paired with a variety of other gemstones to create unique and interesting jewelry designs. Some gemstones that pair well with amethyst include:
Peridot is a green gemstone that has a bright and cheerful color that contrasts nicely with the deep purple of amethyst. This creates a vibrant and colorful look that can be very striking in jewelry.
Peridot and amethyst also have some symbolic significance when paired together, as peridot is associated with growth and renewal, while amethyst is associated with spiritual awareness and inner peace. This can make the combination of these two gemstones meaningful as well as beautiful.
Citrine is a yellow gemstone that has a warm, sunny color that complements the cool tones of amethyst. This creates a harmonious and balanced look that can be very attractive in jewelry.
3. Lavender Jade
Lavender jade is a pale purple gemstone that has a soft and delicate color that blends well with the vibrant purple of the amethyst, creating a subtle and elegant look that can be very appealing in jewelry.
Ametrine is a compositional stone where one half composes of citrine and the other is amethyst. It’s very rare to find in nature but it does occur in eastern Bolivia at the Anahi Mine.
Ametrine is somewhat expensive due to its rarity, but it is technically part of the amethyst family. Ametrine features purple and yellow tones. It can be a beautiful complement to amethyst in jewelry designs.
Garnet is a red gemstone that has a rich, vibrant color that contrasts nicely with the purple of amethyst. Together, these colors create a bold and striking look that can be very eye-catching in jewelry.
Amethyst is the classic birthstone for those born in February. It’s also ideal for the sixth and 17th wedding anniversaries.
Yes, amethyst is associated with the zodiac sign of Pisces. Those born under the sign of Pisces are said to be creative, intuitive, and sensitive, and amethyst is believed to enhance these qualities.
The gemstone is also said to be beneficial for Pisces in other ways, such as helping them to relax and de-stress and to connect with their spiritual side. Amethyst is the traditional birthstone for those born in February, which is the time of year when the sun is in the sign of Pisces.
Grape agate is its own class of mineral and is not the same as amethyst. While it does take on the characteristics of agate, its crystalline structure clearly harkens to that of amethyst. Therefore, they should really have the moniker “botryoidal amethyst.”
However, you should not confuse either grape agate or botryoidal amethyst as true amethyst. This is because the structure and formation of the stone are much different, as evidenced by the surface covered with crystals.
You can easily mistake purple chalcedony for amethyst but these two are not the same. Amethyst is, essentially, purple quartz and chalcedony has an entirely different mineral makeup altogether.
The main difference is that quartz has a vitreous luster on conchoidal fracture faces. Chalcedony will be much duller, albeit still having conchoidal fracture faces.
Another way to tell the difference between the two is their ability to refract light. Quartz will always have a shimmer and shine to it whereas chalcedony will absorb light.
Prasiolite is amethyst but it has a yellowish-green to light-medium green appearance produced by heat or radiation. Most commonly found in Brazil, prasiolite’s heating or radiation comes from nature or by human activity.
Amethyst is a classic gemstone that promotes peace, tranquility, balance, well-being, and harmony. Even if you don’t believe in the claims of its massive healing power, looking at the stone’s beautiful color and appearance brings on a sense of serenity.