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Everything you ever wanted to know
about Amethyst… and then some!
February's Gem

--Carol Robinson

A gemstone with rich history, royal connections and mystical powers, the color of amethyst has been compared to the magical purple sky at twilight. Geologically speaking, it is translucent quartz, silicon dioxide, whose color ranges from pale lilac to intense violet. Most amethyst is mined in South America and Africa.

The birthstone for February, amethyst is associated with the astrological signs Pisces, Virgo, Capricorn, Aquarius and Sagittarius. It is also a traditional gift for the sixth and seventeenth wedding anniversaries.

Many amethyst connoisseurs prefer saturated deep purple gemstones, especially those with pink, red or blue flashes of light.

“It’s one of my favorite gems,” says Ben Anemone of Anemoni Jewelers in Newark, Delaware. “If you want to add some color to your life, an amethyst is a great way to start.” He tells us that his amethyst customers tend to know what they want and prefer to select their gem from his collection of loose stones which he sets in a unique pendant or ring.

The word amethyst is from the Greek "amethustos" which is roughly translated "not drunk."

According to the American Gem Society’s “Gems and Jewelry Facts” there is a lovely legend that explains the birth of the gemstone. “…Bacchus, the god of wine and conviviality, grew angry at a slight and swore revenge. He decreed that the first mortal to come across his path was to be eaten by tigers. Amethyst, a beautiful maiden on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana, happened to be the victim. Diana, the huntress, changed Amethyst into colorless quartz to protect her from the tigers. When Bacchus witnessed the miracle, he repented and poured wine over the stone, staining it purple. The wine failed to cover the entire stone evenly, and the feet and part of the legs remained clear crystal. So, in keeping with the legend, amethyst crystals are usually uneven in color with a colorless base.”

Ancient Romans often drank wine from goblets carved from amethyst because they believed it protected them from the effects of alcohol. Perhaps the purple color of the cup gave their drinking buddies the illusion that it was filled with wine when it was actually water.

The color purple symbolizes royalty, and amethysts have been prized by sovereigns for centuries.

Russian ruler Catherine the Great favored the amethyst and sent thousands of her subjects to the Urals to mine the gem. Impressive examples of amethysts are displayed in the Norwegian Crown Regalia and the famous British Crown Jewels.

The iconic Cleopatra is said to have worn an amethyst signet ring engraved with the image of Mithras, the Persian deity who symbolized light and life. Ancient Egyptians cherished amethyst and placed the gems among treasured items within the tombs of Pharaohs.

In the Middle Ages, it was thought to have medicinal value that promoted alertness and intellect. Because they believed it provided protection and courage, soldiers wore amulets made of amethyst to insure victories in battle.

Archeologists have found amethyst used as decoration among Incan, Mayan, Aztec and Mesopotamian civilizations, and the gemstone has been discovered among the remains of Neolithic man.

Because amethyst symbolizes trust and piety, amethyst is an important ornament in the Catholic Church. A new amethyst ring is created for each Pope when they assume the Papacy, and it is the traditional stone of cardinals, bishops and priests, who often wear amethyst rings. Many rosary beads are fashioned from amethyst.

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