Amethysts are a purple variety of quartz. The coloring is thought to be the result of natural impurities (most likely to be iron and some trace elements). Given that Quartz is probably one of the most plentiful minerals on Earth, Amethysts, one of the most precious forms of Quartz are widely available. Large pieces with great clarity are relatively easy to find and make for excellent cost effective additions to your gemstone collection.
A variety of hues are available, from light purple with a pinkish glow, through to deep purple. Whilst tastes in color do vary over time, usually the deeper and more intense purple stones are considered the most valuable. The finest stones display a deep purple color with flashes of red in incandescent light.
Heat treatment is often applied to Amethysts to intensify and deepen their purple hue, with imitations and synthetics also present in the market place. Given that sometimes the cost of testing can exceed the price of the gemstone, care should be taken to buy from reputed dealers and have larger stones tested by an independent gem laboratory
On the whole, most Amethysts have quite poor clarity, with clouding from intrusions or strong bands of other minerals. This may detract from their value, but a notable and unique piece can still be crafted with the right choice of stone and precision of cut. However, as a common gemstone, it is fairly easy to find large pieces with near-perfect clarity. As such, you should avoid stones with visible inclusions even if you are operating on a smaller budget.
Specific Gravity: 2.63 – 2.65 (this is variable in impure varieties)
Chemical Composition: Silicon dioxide, SiO2, with iron impurities, Fe4+
Refractive Index: 1.54 – 1.55
Well-known sources of Amethyst tend to be in Brazil and Uruguay, with Madagascar being a close third. One of the largest ‘veins’ of Amethyst is Lower Austria, in a town called Maissau, where there is a small museum where tourists can come and dig for gemstones themselves! Zambia is the home of one of the world’s largest commercial production of the gemstones and produces 700 tonnes of Amethyst in a year!
They’re also found in Nova Scotia, South Korea, south India, and Russia and in many parts of North America.
As the Amethyst is a common gemstone, you will find it in a wide variety of cuts. Princess and Emerald cuts are two of the most popular for Amethysts, but any cut that shows off the gem’s unique properties and emphasises its clarity is worthwhile.
A well-cut Amethyst is truly beautiful and dazzling. It will be sparkling, well-polished, and incredibly bright as Amethyst reflects a lot of light. A good cut will be symmetrical with angles meeting perfectly together, and the facets will be well-polished and smooth.
Unique pieces are often made from this gemstone to capitalize on individual faults and create “character” pieces. Depending on the craftsmanship, some of these are very beautiful, while others are not such a hit. A poorly cut Amethyst will contain uneven angles, dull lustre, and strange shapes. Given that it can take several hours to achieve a good cut, the cost of labor can sometimes make a well cut Amethyst expensive.
Uses, History & Mythology
Amethysts are commonly set in jewellery, particularly in ring settings and necklaces. Smaller pieces are used for earrings and body piercing jewellery. These are popular gifts to give as amethyst is the birthstone of those born in February.
In Greek mythology, Amethyst was a beautiful maiden who was on her way to worship the goddess Diana when she was attacked by tigers. The beasts had been set upon mortals by the god of intoxication, Dionysius, during a drunken rage. Diana quickly turned Amethyst into quartz to save her from the brutal attack. When Dionysius saw how beautiful Amethyst was, he cried tears of regret made of wine, which stained the quartz and gave it the purple color it carries today.
In crystal healing, Amethysts are an incredibly useful gemstone as they are said to focus psychic energy. In connection with the Greek myth, they are said to protect against drunkenness, fear and guilt. Physically, wearing Amethyst can supposedly heal respiratory and circulatory problems, relieve headaches, help to break addictions, and advances spirituality.
Whatever your motivation, be it spirit or style, Amethysts are truly a worthy addition to any gemstone or gemstone jewellery collection.
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