Amethyst: The February BirthstoneThere are few gems that have had a more dramatic history than amethyst.
For thousands of years, this jewel was reserved for aristocrats and royalty thanks to its rarity and unusual rich purple. It was such a treasured gem that amethyst was once counted among diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds as a “cardinal gem” valued above all others. However, in the 19th century, such massive deposits of amethyst were found in Brazil and Uruguay that the gem became the affordable pleasure we know it as today. Still, amethyst is still as gorgeous as it ever was, and February’s birthstone was well-chosen in this regard!
Amethyst’s name attests to its value in ancient times: “Améthustos” means “not drunk” in Ancient Greek, and the Greeks and Romans treasured this jewel for its purported ability to prevent its owner from being intoxicated or poisoned. Many luxury cups that archaeologists have discovered from these areas have been made entirely from carved amethyst or boast decorations of the violet stone.
Today amethyst is generally divided into two origins: Brazilian and Russian. The former tends to be paler and more of a lavender color. Russian amethyst is more treasured because of its intensely deep wine-purple tones that are almost electric in their boldness. In either case, there are few gems that can conjure the same tone that amethyst can.
The Physical Characteristics of AmethystIronically, despite the fact that amethyst has been such a treasured gem, it has relatively humble origins. Amethyst is a quartz gem, and its color comes from trivalent iron embedded in the quartz. While still in the Earth, the nascent amethyst was exposed to natural radiation, which caused the gem to develop its purple shades. Interestingly, modern science has shown that if amethyst is essentially citrine, which contains the same iron that wasn’t exposed to radiation. If amethyst is exposed to a great deal of heat, the effects of the radiation wear off, and the purple of the jewel turns back into bright yellow. In nature, the jewel we know as “ametrine” comes from a scenario in which only a part of a naturally occurring citrine was exposed to the radiation of another mineral like uranium.
For the jewelry lover, amethyst is a relatively durable mineral. At a 7 on the Mohs scale, it is harder than peridots, tanzanite, and opal, but softer than topaz. If your February loved one is partial to the stone, but is concerned about cracking it, it may be a good idea to stick to amethyst necklaces or earrings. Alternatively, if their heart is set on an amethyst ring, surrounding it with a halo of metal and durable diamonds may be an ideal choice.