It’s purple, it’s crystalline, and it’s a type of quartz. Some people believe that this gemstone has healing properties, though these have not been proven scientifically. We are continuing our gem and mineral discussion this week with the amazing and fascinating amethyst.
It’s one of the few purple stones.
Yep, there aren’t a lot of purple stones, especially gemstones. Amethyst receives its purple color from impurities in the quartz that serves as its parent rock. Irradiated by elements found in surrounding rocks, the iron and some other trace elements within the quartz change color, creating the amethysts that we see today. Amethyst comes in many shades of purple, from a pale lavender color to a deep purple-red, the most sought after shade.
It's found in the Americas and Africa.
Amethyst is the state gemstone of South Carolina. In the United States, it is mined in the Carolinas, Maine, Georgia, and Arizona. The largest global producer of amethyst is Brazil, followed closely by Zambia.
Its name is Greek.
The word amethyst roughly translates to “not drunken” in Greek. In ancient Greece the stone was believed to halt the effects of alcohol. Anglican bishops used to wear amethyst rings with a similar purpose in mind. However, there is no scientific evidence today that such an effect is possible. You’ll probably get just as drunk wearing an amethyst as if you didn’t.
It’s used as a gemstone.
Well, yeah, that’s obvious. This particular stone is popular for jewelry because it is more affordable than most other gemstones. The gem can be cut into a variety of shapes, including round and oval. It is used for all kinds of jewelry, especially rings.
It is possible to make fake amethysts.
These false gemstones can be created in a laboratory. Clear quartz is treated with iron before being exposed to x-rays or gamma radiation, which turns the quartz into a deep purple shade. Some fake amethysts are simply dyed, however. It’s a lot easier than playing around with radioactive elements.
It’s used by modern Wiccans.
Like so many other gemstones and crystals, amethyst is used for spells and other witchcraft. Users believe that it drives off insomnia and nightmares, even bringing on prophetic dreams. The stone is also used for various forms of stress relief. It is said to bring about courage and help with meditation.
It’s a birthstone.
Amethyst is the birthstone of February. It is said to represent personal empowerment and strength in its user. The stone is also a traditional gift for the sixth wedding anniversary.
It’s a common crystal in geodes.
In case you’ve wondered, geodes form within cavities in both sedimentary and volcanic rocks. These cavities are eventually breached by mineral rich groundwater or rainwater, which starts depositing minerals within the rock. Over thousands of years, these minerals form crystals that start to fill in the cavity, creating the geodes we see today. Among the common crystals found within these geodes, especially volcanic geodes, are various types of quartz, including amethyst.
It was once more valuable than it is today.
Amethyst was once considered a cardinal gemstone, along with other valuable stones such as sapphire and ruby. This went on until the eighteenth century. Extensive deposits of amethyst were discovered in Brazil, drastically dropping its value and making it much more affordable. Today it is only considered a semiprecious gemstone.
Cooking it creates another gemstone.
If amethyst is heated, the purple color turns yellow or brown and it becomes a citrine. This can be done in a lab, creating artificial citrine, or it can occur naturally, such as in a high temperature metamorphic zone. Ametrine is a combination of amethyst and citrine that occurs when only part of the stone is heated.
The amethyst appears in the lyrics of the eighties hit song Dance Hall Days. “And in her mouth an amethyst.” I’ve been unable to find any reliable source as to the meaning of this line, and some of the ones I’ve found range from ridiculous to downright dirty. The most believable explanation is that it is meant as a sense of illusion and unreality. Whatever the meaning, it seems rather uncomfortable for the female dancer. It’s not really a good idea to dance around with rocks in your mouth, don’t you think?
Monthly Birthstones- www.monthlybirthstones.com
University College London- www.ucl.uc.uk
Gemological Institute of America- www.gia.edu
Geology Page- www.geologypage.com
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, Scott Cunningham, 2003