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February Birthstone: Amethyst

February 21, 2019

By: Diane Nicole Go, GIA Graduate Gemologist

 

Let's look into the stone of royalty:  The Amethyst.

Amethyst, the purple variety of quartz, is the birthstone for all February babies. It can range from a light lavender shade to a rich and intense purple, and even come in many shapes and sizes. Commonly used by royal families throughout history, Amethyst used to be exclusive to them, but has now become easily accessible by anyone and everyone. Amethyst is not just for those born on February— rather, it can also be given for a married couple’s sixth anniversary. Much like the kings and queens who proudly wore this gem, you too can wear this stone to empower and strengthen you.

History

Amethyst is associated to wine—down from the origin of its name to its healing properties. It originated from the name amethystos, which means “a remedy against drunkenness”. Early Greeks associated the gem with the God of Wine Bacchus, and even believed that it could guard against intoxication. Some even thought that the stone had calming properties, with the Greeks using it to keep the wearer clear-headed during battle and business affairs, and the Renaissance Europeans using it to calm lovers who were taken over in a fit of passion. Alexander the Great was one of the many royals who admired the deep color of the Amethyst. The finer variants have been mounted on religious and royal crown jewelry throughout the years. At some point, it has even been considered on par with the Big 3: Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire because of its rarity. Eventually, a Spanish Conquistador found abundant deposits of Amethyst in the Anahi Mine during the year 1600, making the gem more accessible to everyone. Currently, Amethyst is available in a wide range of sizes and prices—from beads to tumbled pieces for the crystal-loving folk, to faceted stones mounted on fine jewelry.

Physical Properties

Although there are many purple gems in the market like Tanzanite, the first one that always comes to mind is the popular Amethyst—the purple variety of quartz. Just like all other quartzes, Amethyst is made up of silicon and oxygen, both of which are abundant. The color of an Amethyst ranges from a light lavender to a royal purple, with slight undertones of brown or even blue and red. Amethyst can even be violet in color—cool and bluish, or a sought-after reddish purple, which is sometimes referred to as raspberry. It gets its color to the presence of iron in its chemical composition, along with irradiation or other trace elements that make up its crystal pattern (lattice). Amethyst gems often show uneven, angular color patterns of graduating dark and light colors called color zoning, which is a natural part of its formation, and the finer pieces often feature an even and saturated hue. On the Mohs Scale of Hardness, Amethyst ranks 7, but can have a lower ranking if there are more impurities present. Amethyst is a gem with a glass-like luster (vitreous) and can even be eye-clean. The more affordable pieces often come with more patterns and inclusions that look like liquid encased in the gem. Aside from gemstones, amethyst can be found in geodes—large rocks with a hollow cavity that display a multitude of crystals in it when cut open. An Amethyst gem that is half purple and half yellow is called an Ametrine, with the yellow color being attributed to a Citrine: the yellow variety of quartz. Heat treatment can improve the color of a natural Amethyst, but this can be tricky. Some treatments can lighten the color of a dark Amethyst or remove its unwanted brownish color, but some stones may even turn yellow, or become a Citrine with the treatment. This is permanent for an Amethyst with normal use but can also make the stone more brittle. In the market, you may encounter lab-grown or synthetic Amethyst, which has the same chemical and physical properties as its natural counterpart. It may be difficult to tell the two apart, unless it is sent to a Gemological lab for testing, but most people in the jewelry industry don’t do that because of the time, effort and cost needed to conduct the test, which amounts to more than the cost of the actual gem. All sellers, however, are required to tell you if the stone they’re selling is natural or synthetic, so you can clarify with them for your peace of mind.

Healing Properties

While many people believed that Amethyst could be used to cure drunkenness, its healing properties have grown over time to include so much more. An Amethyst is a handy talisman for the creative soul. It inspires new ideas borne from the tools and methods of the past. Often called an Artist’s stone, it amplifies creativity and focus. It can also be used to heal people and counteract negativity. Just place a geode in your home as a source of protection or wear one closest to you to protect yourself from hostility, paranormal harm and ill intent. Amethyst is also a calming and soothing stone that is believed to aid in insomnia, homesickness and hyperactivity or restless energy. It can even calm angry temperaments, making it perfect for diplomats, negotiators and business people. Commonly linked to the Third Eye, Crown and Etheric chakras, an Amethyst helps develop intuition, and gives wisdom and a greater understanding of things. It can even comfort those who have lost a loved one.

Care and Cleaning

Given its rank on the Mohs scale of hardness (7), Amethyst jewelry should never be mixed or stored together with harder stones like diamonds and sapphires, lest they scratch its surface. It is, however, durable enough to be worn as jewelry pieces. Be careful though, since it may show wear and tear over time and need repolishing. More often than not, an Amethyst may have been heat-treated, so you’re better off not wearing the stone to the beach. Some stones may fade over time with prolonged exposure to strong light but can withstand normal use. The treatment can make the stone brittle too, so be careful not to hit its edges on very hard surfaces. Amethyst can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner, or even with a soft brush and mild soap when done at home. It isn’t recommended to clean your jewelry via steam cleaning, as this stone may be sensitive to heat.

Choosing the Right Amethyst

In terms of color, the finest Amethyst is a strong reddish purple or purple, with an even color and no brownish tints. A stone that is too dark can look inky and black, thus lowering its value. As most Amethysts are eye-clean, a stone with minor to no inclusions will fetch a high price. This of course, can be compensated if the stone has a rich color and well-proportioned cut. Light-colored Amethysts show noticeable patterns and inclusions, so anything noticeable on those kinds of stones lower its value. Amethyst comes in a wide variety of sizes, making it good for dramatic jewelry designs. Its size, however, does not play a large role in determining its value, as it can be used for carvings, custom cuts and the like—all for mass-market jewelry. When finding an Amethyst, the color, clarity and cut are very critical factors to look out for. Amethyst is a versatile gem that you can use for a variety of occasions: beaded bracelets as a protective every day accessory, a geode to decorate your home, or even a finely crafted piece passed down from generations to adorn you when you go to parties and events. No matter where or what you do, you will always see an Amethyst in all walks of life.

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