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amethyst history

Amethyst History

Amethyst has been popular in nearly every culture that came across it throughout its long and ancient history. Faceted stones, crystal specimens, large and small polished pebbles, or cabochons—amethyst can do it all. Do you know amethyst history?

In fact, amethyst was once as treasured as rubies and emeralds before large deposits were discovered in Africa and South America, which increased the global supply.

All that available amethyst is great news for February babies because this purple beauty is the month’s traditional birthstone.

If you’re lucky enough to wear amethyst as your birthstone, then you should know that you’re representing one of the most fascinating gemstones ever.

What is the history of amethyst?

Steeped in history and mythology, the amethyst history can be traced back to at least 4,500 years in the Minoan civilization.

In ancient Greece, the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all believed amethyst had powers of protection.

There is even an ancient myth about the origin of amethyst. Dionysus, the god of wine, had been insulted by a mortal and vowed revenge on the next human who crossed his path. A young woman who was traveling to pay tribute to the goddess Artemis happened upon Dionysus, and he set a man-eating tiger after her.

To protect her devotees from the tiger, Artemis turned the girl into a beautiful, clear stone. Dionysus felt drunken guilt over his actions, and his tears stained the gemstone purple. Instead of being shredded to death by tigers, the girl transformed into a quartz crystal.

Still, it seems like a pretty bum deal, but thanks to this mythology around amethyst, the gemstone was once considered a lucky charm to ward off intemperance.

There were even ancient wine goblets carved from amethyst—pretty cool, huh? And because amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy, it was believed to have a sobering effect not only on the over-served but also on the, shall we say, overly passionate.

Amethyst was also a very important decoration in Catholic churches in the Middle Ages, considered to be the papal stone.

Even today, many bishops still wear amethyst rings.

Purple has long been regarded as a color suited only for royalty and other bigwig VIPs, and amethyst gems have adorned pharaohs, kings, and other rulers for thousands of years. There was even amethyst jewelry discovered in King Tut’s tomb—you can learn more about his treasures here.

Where is amethyst found?

So where does this purple gem come from?

Amethyst is a variety of quartz that’s colored by an interaction of iron and aluminum. Like many other gemstones, amethyst varies according to its source.

Amethyst from the Americas can be found in really large sizes. Australian and Sri Lankan amethyst is usually highly saturated with dark colors.

The country that produces the most amethyst is Brazil.

Bicolor amethyst

Bicolor amethyst melds regal purple with the ice whites of quartz in one gem. Bicolor amethyst occurs because of environmental changes during formation at different times.

The color-causing element iron was incorporated into quartz crystals, causing different color layers.

By cutting gems purposefully to show this feature, they are judged by the balance and contrast between the different colors, offering a wide variety of shades from reddish to violet-purple.

This gemstone is versatile. If you prefer soft, subdued colors, you will truly enjoy the pastel lavenders of amethyst.

Purple amethyst

If you enjoy deeper, richer colors, then you should consider some of the intense purple amethyst from Africa or South America. Its richness can be intoxicating to the eye.

You can collect amethyst without having to wear it too.

Amethyst often crystallizes in cavities within volcanic rocks, forming geodes. These crystals grow inward and are often sliced or cut to form beautiful displays that are fun to collect.

If you’re born in February and purple just isn’t your shade, that’s okay. There are alternative February birthstones too. Black onyx and white moonstone can be substituted for amethyst. And even though I try to avoid editorializing, it has been said that black onyx and moonstone look very cool when worn together.

Learn more here:

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