Amethyst is the most highly prized variety of quartz and if not for its widespread availability, would be very expensive. With its luscious color, it is the official birthstone for February and one of our best-selling gemstones. (Also growing in popularity on the market is a blend of amethyst and citrine, dubbed “ametrine,” which is often heat-treated.) Amethyst is formed in silica-rich liquids deposited in gas cavities (geodes) in lava. It occurs in crystalline masses, but the crystals are generally not well developed, so they are generally found as clusters of crystal points. Though geodes are the best place to locate amethysts, they also sometimes grow as stalactites. The stone’s name is derived from the Greek word amethystos, meaning “not drunken,” because people of ancient times believed it to protect the wearer from drunkenness. For this reason, wine goblets often were carved from it! Some amethysts will lose their color in sunlight, so keep them away from direct exposure to help maintain their rich purple. Fortunately, the original color of amethyst can be restored by X-ray radiation; so next time you get an X-ray, ask if the technician will let you bring some amethyst along!
In addition to “preventing” drunkenness, people also once thought the stone encouraged celibacy and symbolized piety. Amethyst was therefore very important in the ornamentation of churches in the Middle Ages. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst had the power to dissipate evil thoughts and quicken intelligence. The stone also makes an appearance in L.M. Montgomery’s classic book Anne of Green Gables, in which Anne admires an amethyst brooch; she explains that she once thought diamonds must be this beautiful purple color, and cried when she learned they were just plain white. In Tibet, amethyst is considered sacred to Buddha, and rosaries are often fashioned from it. Western mystics say the stone helps instill the highest ideals and urges one to do what is right. They also claim amethyst cures impatience, alleviates feelings of victimization, balances high energy, eliminates chaos and helps keep one grounded. The official state gemstone of the state of Georgia, amethyst is mined in the U.S.A., Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Zambia, Namibia and other African countries.