Amethyst Facts - History - Properties - Meanings - Lore
Do you remember the very first time you were seduced by a gemstone?
For me, it was the Amethyst - February Birthstone associated with the sign of Pisces and the 6th Wedding Anniversary stone.
I was instantly smitten by this gorgeously hued lilac-purple quartz rock that has been called the “Queen of Gems”. It is often referred to as a beginner stone as it is widely known and extremely popular. It is used not only for jewelry but in home decor. I bet you have seen the stunning Amethyst Geode crystals that can be as small as to fit on a desk to large and spectacular sculpture-like geodes that can tower several feet from the floor.
Over time I moved on to learning about and working with newer and -to me, at least - more unusual stones. But a few years ago I rekindled my love affair with this purple wonder. How could I not fall back in love? Amethyst pairs wonderfully with many other stones, most notably Rose Quartz but also Amazonite, Moonstone, green stones such as Peridot or Aventurine, and even Garnet or Blue Topaz. It gives off soothing vibes and always imparts a sense of mystery. Not to mention that purple is one of my favorite colors!
So let's take a deep dive into this beautiful stone...
Amethyst is a Quartz crystal with a Mohs hardness of 7. Its primary colors are purple or lilac, secondary hues can be blue or red. Amethyst is sensitive to heat and bright light such as sunshine and can change color if exposed to high temperatures. Sometimes extreme heat can turn Amethyst into Ametrine or make it resemble Citrine. Originally the darker purple shades of the stone were the most prized, but lighter shades are now also in vogue and often used in more inexpensive jewelry, whereas darker higher grade Amethyst shows up more often in fine jewelry designs.
Amethysts throughout History
Fun fact; The word Amethyst comes from the Greek word amethystos which literally means “not drunk” or “not intoxicated”. In those days it was believed the stone could prevent drunkenness and the Greeks and Romans even made wine chalices out of Amethyst so they could imbibe without consequences!
Thanks to archeological finds, we know that Egyptians were mining Amethyst more or less 3900 years ago - during a period known today as the Middle Kingdom - at a site called Wadi el-Hudi. Amethyst became all the rage among the Pharaohs and other Egyptian royalty and elites. Egyptians would carve animal shapes out of the rock to use as protective amulets and also created elaborate jewelry pieces and carved intaglios.
Amethysts in Greek & Roman Mythology
Amethyst appears in a Greek poem written by Asclepiades of Samos. In this poem, he describes a carved Amethyst Intaglio that was given to Queen Cleopatra of Epirus, sister of Alexander the Great. In this case, the carving was of Methe, the Greek Goddess of Drunkenness and follower of Dionysius (Bacchus in Roman Mythology). Methe was carved into the Amethyst perhaps to ward off the dangers of the drunkenness she represented.
The stone is commonly associated with Dyonisius a.k.a Bacchus not only because of Greek and Roman mythology but also thanks to the French poet Remy Belleau. He wove a tale about Bacchus and Amethyste that unfortunately is circulated widely today as Greek Mythology. Rather, it is a 16th Century piece that weaves the tale of a love-obsessed Bacchus relentlessly pursuing the fair Amethyste. She sought the help of Diana, the Goddess of Chastity upon which Diana turned her into a statue of pure white rock crystal to protect her from Bacchus' debauched advances. Upon seeing the rock, Bacchus is overcome with remorse and pours his wine over the statue, which then transforms into a beautiful purple Amethyst.
Amethysts in the Bible
The Old Testament mentions Amethyst using the Hebrew word "achlamah". This word is derived form the word "chalam" which means to dream. To this day Amethysts are referred to as "dream-stones".
Amethyst is one of the 12 stones of the High Priest of Jerusalem's breastplate, as depicted in the Book of Exodus. The stones each represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel. This breastplate was purportedly used by the High Priest for divine communication and to receive answers to his questions.
Amethysts in Europe
During the Middle Ages Amethyst was associated with Royalty and the Clergy all over Europe. As a stone of piety and spiritual wisdom it was widely used to adorn religious artifacts such as scepters, rosaries, and Bishop’s and Cardinal's rings. Amethyst is the stone of St. Valentine who represents courtly love.
Amethysts were often used in the Crown Jewels of many European Kingdoms, and many of these elaborate pieces are worn by Royals today. One of these sets (parures) are the famous Kent Amethysts, often worn by Queen Elizabeth II. The Kent Amethyst have been part of the British Royal Family since the early 1800s and were originally owned by Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent.
Amethyst was once prized equally with Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphire, and Diamonds, the stones referred to as the Cardinal Gems. However, as new large deposits were discovered around the globe, the Amethyst suffered a bit of a “demotion” no longer being considered rare. In any case, the concept of the Cardinal Gems, established in Antiquity, is no longer common.
Historical Properties of Amethyst
In addition to being deemed the antidote for drunkenness, Amethyst was also bestowed with many other protective and talismanic properties. It was also credited with religious and medicinally significant powers.
Soldiers would wear Amethyst to remain calm in the heat of battle and also to help them heal from their wounds. It was helpful to hunters and travelers alike and was said to cure snake and insect bites and protect crops from locusts, drought, and flooding. Apparently, it also helped with pimples, when rubbed on them wet.
Royalty considered it helpful against infection and disease and was also thought to protect from spells and witchcraft.
Tibetans associated Amethyst with Buddha and used the beads in their Prayer Malas. It was considered a stone of peace and helpful for communicating with the metaphysical plain and that allowed the mind to travel freely between states of consciousness. They believed Amethyst could heal wounds and had restorative properties.
Amethyst Origins & Geography
Africa & Asia
Amethyst is produced and found all around the world. The highest quality Amethyst rough coming from Siberia, Uruguay, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. Madagascar - where many other popular crystals such as Rose Quartz and Tourmalines are mined - is another important source for Amethyst. In Zambia, the Kariba mine produces over 1000 tons of Amethyst per year. On the African Continent, it is also found in Namibia, Tanzania, and Morocco.
In Asia Amethyst is found on “Gem Island” as the country of Sri Lanka is often referred to. The mountain range of Ganesh Himal bordering Tibet and Nepal is where Tibetans mine many of the stones used in their spiritually centered jewelry. The Amethyst and other quartzes being mined here are considered some of the oldest mineral formations on earth. Other known sources in Asia are India, South Korea, and Myanmar.
Before the 19th century - when large deposits of Amethyst were discovered in South America - the gemstone was considered rare, its largest producer being Russia. Amethysts were predominantly mined in the Ural mountain region of Siberia. Then in 1845, they were discovered in Austria and the Central Alps. The Maissau mine in Austria is an open pit mine, the largest of its kind in the world. it is open to the public and offers tours, excavations and other fun stuff for gem geeks. Additonal European deposits exist in Italy and Germany.
Crossing the ocean towards South America we find Amethyst in Brazil and Uruguay. Both countries are currently some of the world’s largest suppliers of Amethyst. Large deposits of crystal clusters found in Basalt deposits there can often hold hundreds of pounds of Amethyst crystals in one place. In Brazil, the most important mines are in the Rio Grande do Sul state, the source of many of the gigantic geodes used for decorative pieces today. Check out this AMAZING heart-shaped geode found recently at the Santa Rosa mine in Uruguay for a perfect example of these region's treasures.
Further North. in high altitude Bolivia, the Anahi mine is the most well-known producer of Amethyst crystal points and clusters in the world. This mine also yields Ametrine; the stone where Citrine mixes with Amethyst.
Amethyst can be found in all 3 countries comprising North America. In Mexico, the states of Guerrero and Veracruz are the main producers. Amethysts have been found in Aztec graves although the origins of these particular stones are undetermined.
Amethysts can be found all over the United States. The only commercial mine however is The Four Peaks Mine, located in Arizona. It is known for producing a reddish-purple type of Amethyst that Native Americans used to make arrowheads. This same stone is believed to have been brought back to Spain by early conquistadors and placed in pieces in the Spanish Crown Jewel collection.
Amethyst is the official stone of South Carolina and also of the Canadian state of Ontario. In Canada, the stone is mined in Thunder Bay at the top of Lake Superior and can also be found in Nova Scotia.
Healing properties of Amethyst
Without a doubt, Amethyst is today one of the most commonly used healing crystals. It purportedly holds cleansing powers that can assist with bringing clarity of mind to the wearer. It is considered a stone of friendship as wells as tied to faithful and chaste love.
Amethysts are a powerful tool for centering ones thoughts and becoming focused and can help with creative endeavour as well as successfully implementing new projects and ideas.
Additional healing properties of Amethyst are related to addiction harkening back to the days of the Greeks and Romans and their belief it could combat drunkenness. Today it is considered to help addicts conquer their addictions as well as being helpful for people suffering from anxiety and mood disorders due to its calming and soothing energy. It is sometimes referred to as nature’s tranquilizer as it can bring peace and calm to the wearer.
Amethyst for Home & Business
Place an Amethyst next to your bed to promote peaceful dreams and restful sleep and to combat insomnia. Or place them all around the home to dispel negative energies and bring balance and positive vibrations to each room.
If you are a business owner Amethyst may help you attract abundance and new opportunities as well as keep you sharp and focused during negotiations.
Amethyst is related both to the Crown and the Third Eye Chakras, making it a powerful tool in the intuitive process and can be a conduit to communicate with your spirit guides as well as your higher self. Use Amethyst to expand your psychic abilities and to connect with the spirit realm. It is a wonderful stone to use in meditation and in Yoga practice.
Amethyst Colors and Variations
As I mentioned earlier Amethyst can come on all hues of purple from the very pale to the very deep and also shows up with other crystals in the mix such as Ametrine and White Quartz. It is also subject to misnomers that end up being widely used in the jewelry trade despite the classification not being recognized by official gemstone organizations.
Amethyst names and descriptions:
- Deep Siberian: This is a dark purple colored stone with flashes of red and/or blue.
- Rose de France: Soft Lavender or Lilac stone, it used to be less valuable but has now become more sought after. The Anahi mine in Bolivia is a big supplier of Rose de France Amethysts.
- Chevron Amethyst/Banded Amethyst: This is one of my favorites to work with when it comes to pendants and faceted beads. It is Amethyst mixed with white Quartz and sometimes also flashes of earthy yellow. The White Quartz often creates Chevron-like patterns, hence its name, but it can also create more free form patterns that can look like lightning against a deep night sky, or snow-capped mountains in the distance, really beautiful and mesmerizing!
- Prasiolite: Green Amethyst, this is a misnomer as the stone is not really Amethyst but simply a type of green Quartz that also goes by the name of Lime Citrine or Vermarine.
- Golden Amethyst: Ametrine, a mix of Citrine and Amethyst.
Coming in March 2021
Aquamarine - March Birtshone
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