The Amethyst color is unique as it is seductive. Its transparent, coarse grained, purple color makes it suitable for most jewelry. The Amethyst is the birthstone for February. The amethyst is part of the Quartz family. Though a gemstone must be purple quartz in order for it to be an amethyst, it comes in a wide range of purple shades and colors. It ranges from light lilac or lavender to a deep, rich, dark purple and violet. In the Mohs scale it rates a 7, which makes it hard enough to be suitably made for jewelry. At a point in time it was revered as a precious stone, today its abundance has made it inexpensive and commonplace but it still revered as a beautiful and powerful gemstone.
Amethyst: History and Mythology
The name Amethyst comes for the Greek words meaning a for “not” and methustos for “drunken” (not drunken). This was reference that the Greeks believe that the stone was an antidote against drunkenness. Wine goblets were carved out of the stones and the it still symbolizes sobriety until this day. The story behind this is that the Greek god Dionysus (god of intoxication) was angered one day by an insult of a mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that he encounters. Dionysus came across the mortal Amethyst, a beautiful maiden who worshipped the goddess Diana. Dionysus created tigers to attack the maiden but Diana turned the maiden into pure crystalline quartz to protect her. At the sight of the crystal, Dionysus cried tears of wine which gave the crystal a purple color and creating the amethyst.
Purple is the color of royalty and amethyst has been used to adorn the rich and powerful monarchs and rulers. Fine amethysts were featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite stone of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Amethyst is mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 stones adorning the breastplate of the high priests of Yahweh. Because amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, it was an important ornament of Catholic and other churches of the Middle Ages. It was considered to be the stone of bishops, who still often wear amethyst rings. In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.
Amethyst: How are they formed?
Amethysts are formed in silica-rich liquids deposited in gas cavity geodes in lava that occur in crystalline masses. These cavities are formed in the earth’s crust by gas bubbling in circular cavities or filling of veins. When conditions permit, it forms hexagonal crystals that are usually grown from a base. These crystals are most often not well developed, and so are generally found as clusters of crystal points and are called Amethyst druze. Although most commonly found in geodes, Amethyst is sometimes found as a stalactite.
Amethyst: What is made of?
Amethyst is of the Quartz family, which is in the Silicates group where silicon and oxygen (SiO2) form tetrahedral silica that combines with various metals or semi-metals. Amethyst can occur as long prismatic crystals that have a six sided pyramid at either end or can form as druzes that are crystalline crusts that only show the pointed terminations. As a mineral specimen, amethyst is popular for its color and nice crystal shapes that produce a handsome, purple, sparkling cluster.
The color of amethyst can come in any shade of purple from light to dark. A paler, lavender shade of purple called “rose de france” was popular and valuable a few decades ago. The most prized color grade however is the “Siberian”, which derives in several locations in Siberia, notably Uruguay and Zambia. The Siberian contain hues of mostly purple, blue and some secondary hues or red. In amethyst, color often occurs in bands or waves. This is very characteristic and can be used to identify amethyst out of other purple stones. In the 20th century, the color of amethyst was thought to be attributed from the presence of the chemical element manganese. But since the color can be altered by the presence of heat, the color was believed to be organic from Ferric thiocyanate and sulfur which is detected from the material. Further study has proved that iron and aluminum is responsible for the color.
As stated in previous paragraph, when heated the amethyst can fade and lose some of its color. It is best to keep these stones away from extended exposure from the heat and sun. If heated intensely the color can lose its color completely and change to a yellow color thus making it a Citrine. Since amethyst is more widespread, this is how commercial Citrine is created. When Citrine and Amethyst are grown together naturally and in the same crystal they create alternating bands of yellow and purple creating what is called Amertine.
As I stated previously, amethyst is so widespread and abundant, that it makes it very inexpensive and cheap. What makes it worse is that technology has advanced so far to make synthetic amethyst that it even imitates even the highest quality amethyst and makes it hard to distinguish between them. Manufacturers of synthetic amethyst have even learned how duplicate the natural growing process, also correcting twinning of the axes, making the growth pattern more identical to natural and making detection even more difficult. Laboratories can test each stone to detect synthetic amethyst but the process of testing is even more expensive than what the stone is worth.