Where the world comes to find out all about amethysts
Amethyst is a reddish violet or purple variety of quartz often used as an ornament. The name comes from the Greek a (not) and methuskein ("to intoxicate"), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness; the ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication.
In the 20th century, the color of amethyst was attributed to the presence of manganese. However, since it is capable of being greatly altered and even discharged by heat, the color was believed by some authorities to be from an organic source. Ferric thiocyanate was suggested, and sulfur was said to have been detected in the mineral.
On exposure to heat, amethyst generally becomes yellow, and much of the citrine, cairngorm, or yellow quartz of jewelry is said to be merely "burnt amethyst". Veins of amethystine quartz are apt to lose their color on the exposed outcrop.
Amethyst is composed of an irregular superposition of alternate lamellae of right-handed and left-handed quartz. It has been shown that this structure may be due to mechanical stresses. As a consequence of this composite formation, amethyst is apt to break with a rippled fracture, or to show "thumb markings", and the intersection of two sets of curved ripples may produce on the fractured surface a pattern something like that of "engine turning". Some mineralogists, following Sir David Brewster, apply the name of amethyst to all quartz which exhibits this structure, regardless of color.
Amethyst was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians and was largely employed in antiquity for intaglios. Beads of amethyst are found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England. It is a widely distributed mineral, but fine, clear specimens that are suitable for cutting as ornamental stones are confined to comparatively few localities. Such crystals occur either in the cavities of mineral-veins and in granitic rocks, or as a lining in agate geodes. A huge geode, or "amethyst-grotto", from near Santa Cruz in southern Brazil was exhibited at the Dusseldorf Exhibition of 1902. Many of the hollow agates of Brazil and Uruguay contain a crop of amethyst crystals in the interior. Much fine amethyst comes from Russia, especially from near Mursinka in the Ekaterinburg district, where it occurs in drusy cavities in granitic rocks. Many localities in India yield amethyst; and it is found also in Sri Lanka, chiefly as pebbles.
Due to its popularity as a gemstone, several descriptive terms have been coined in the gem trade to describe the varying colors of amethyst. "Rose de France" is usually a pale pinkish lavender or lilac shade (usually the least sought color). The most prized color is an intense violet with red flashes and is called "Siberian", although gems of this color may occur from several locations other than Siberia, notably Uruguay and Zambia. In more recent times, certain gems (usually of Bolivian origin) that have shown alternate bands of amethyst purple with citrine orange have been given the name ametrine.
Purple corundum, or sapphire of amethystine tint, is called Oriental amethyst, but this expression is often applied by jewelers to fine examples of the ordinary amethystine quartz, even when not derived from eastern sources. Professional gemological associations, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gemological Society (AGS), discourage the use of the term "Oriental amethyst" to describe any gem, as it may be misleading.
Amethyst occurs at many localities in the United States, but these specimens are rarely fine enough for use in jewelry. Among these may be mentioned Amethyst Mountain, Texas; Yellowstone National Park; Delaware County, Pennsylvania; Haywood County, North Carolina; and Deer Hill, and Stow, Maine. It is found also in the Lake Superior district. Amethyst is relatively common in northwestern Ontario, but uncommon elsewhere in Canada; it was selected as the provincial mineral of Ontario in 1975.
Amethysts in Folklore and Astrology
Amethyst is the birthstone most associated with February. It is also associated with the astrological signs of Pisces, Aries (especially the violet and purple variety), Aquarius, and Sagittarius. It is considered a symbol of heavenly understanding, and of the pioneer in thought and action on the philosophical, religious, spiritual, and material planes.
Ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church have traditionally worn rings set with a large amethyst as part of their office.
The Greek word "amethystos" basically can be translated as "not drunken." Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it. Supposedly, when a drunken Dionysus was pursuing a maiden called Amethystos, who refused his affections, she prayed to the gods to remain chaste. The goddess Artemis granted the prayer, transforming her into a white stone; humbled by Amethystos' desire to remain chaste, Dionysus poured wine over the stone she had become as an offering, dying the crystals purple.
Variants of the story include that Dionysus, the god of intoxication, had been insulted by a mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal who crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish; the mortal turned out to be a beautiful young woman, Amethystos, who was on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. Her life is spared by Artemis, who transforms the maiden into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple. Another variation involves the goddess Rhea presenting Dionysus with the amethyst stone to preserve the wine drinker's sanity.
There are a number of factors to consider when buying an amethyst stone.
Amethyst naturally comes in purple. From the light or "Rose de France" often used in antique jewelery, as it is called, to a deeper almost blood red color. The deeper the color the more rare and more expensive generally the stone is. One can get yellow amethysts also and these have been turned yellow by being heat treated.
First you should pick a reputable dealer, either online or in your town or city. You want someone who has some experience with amethysts and knows what they are talking about. Make sure they have a returns policy also so you can return the stone for a full refund if it is not what you expected.
Then check if the stone has been treated in anyway. Amethysts can be heat treated or irridated with radiation, even being dyed or coated so you need to check yourself if that is the case. It may not be a amethyst but just a piece of clear quartz.
Some amethysts are more valuable and therefore more pricy than diamonds so you can end up paying many thousands of dollars for a really fine amethyst. So it pays not to just take on trust the first 'amethyst' you are offered by the local jeweler. Try to look at several at the same time. Do a comparison. Also check the setting, is it a claw setting or a paste or glued in? You need to see the back of the gemstone also so it should be a claw setting, especially for a ring. What sort of metal is the garnet set in. 9 karat gold or higher? It should be at least 14 karat gold or pure platinum. Amethysts look splendid in any setting and can really set off the metal it is set in.
The Amethyst should be clear with no or invisible inclusions (bubbles within the stone caused when it was first formed) or flaws.
Examine the stone for the cut. Does the surface reflect light evenly? Check for any scratches or marks on the surface of the stone.
It is a good idea to examine two or more amethysts together. That way you can select the stone you like the most.
Lastly keep in mind that if the stone is "cheap" it is most likely not a real amethyst.
Sometimes the occasion arises where one has to sell an amethyst. This might be an amethyst ring or pendant or some jewelery or perhaps even just the stones themselves.
Firstly it is important to note that you will not get anywhere near what you paid for the stone unless it is an antique perhaps.
Amethysts are not that expensive unless you have a really big gem so you are not going to get a lot for it.
If the stone is set on gold or platinum that will help to boost the price, especially if the gold is 18 karat or more and platinum is amost twice the price of gold these days.
Where to sell. The least you will get will be from a jeweller who will want to onsell the piece. You will likely get around 20 percent of the value from a jeweller. A pawn broker may give you a little more but your best bet is really to sell privately or through an auction.
eBay and Bidz.com come to mind as the most well known of course. It is a good idea to browse the auctions first and what what is currently selling and how much amethysts are going for. This will give you an idea of the sort of price you can expect for your piece.
Before you sell be sure to know the value of your stone or amethyst jewelery and what sort of price you can expect to get. Studying up on amethysts to know the value of the various types is important.
There is no substitute for doing due diligence when it comes to selling, or buying for that matter, amethysts.
Where Amethysts are Found
Amethysts come from all around the world. The locations of amethyst can often be established by the types of amethysts there are.
Here is a list of the biggest locations from which Amethysts are obtained.
Vera Cruz, Mexico -- very pale, clear, prismatic crystals that are sometimes double terminated and have grown on a light colored host rock. Crystals are typically phantomed, having a clear quartz interior and an amethyst exterior. Some are sceptered and phantomed.
Guerrero, Mexico -- dark, deep purple, prismatic crystals that radiate outward from a common attachment point. Often the crystals are phantomed opposite of Vera Cruz amethyst having a purple interior with a clear or white quartz exterior. These are some of the most valuable amethysts in the world.
Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul, Bahaia, Brazil -- crystals form in druzy crusts that line the inside of sometimes large volcanic rock pockets or "vugs". Some of the vugs form from trees that were engulfed in a lava flow millions of years ago and have since withered away. Other vugs are just gas bubbles in the lava. Some vugs can be quite large. The crystals that form are usually light to medium in color and only colored at the tops of the crystals. Most clusters form with gray, white and blue agate and have a green exterior on the vugs. Calcite sometimes is associated and inclusions of cacoxenite are common.
Maraba, Brazil -- large crystals with unattractive surfaces that are of a pale to medium color and often carved or cut into slices.
Thunder Bay, Canada -- a distinct red hematite inclusion just below the surface of the crystals is unique to this locality. Clusters are druzy crusts that line the fissures formed in ancient metamorphic rocks.
Uruguay -- crystals are dark to medium and form in druzy crusts that line the inside of volcanic vugs that have a gray or brown exterior. The crystals are usually colored throughout, unlike the Brazilian crystals, and form with a multicolored agate that often contains reds, yellows and oranges. Often amethyst- coated stalactites and other unusual formations occur inside these vugs.
Africa -- crystals are usually large but not attractive. However, the interior color and clarity are excellent and polished slices and carvings as well as many gemstones are prized and admired.
Maine, USA -- Dark druzy clusters that are not widely distributed today.
North Carolina, USA -- Druzy clusters that have a bluish-violet tint.
Pennsylvania, USA -- druzy clusters that filled fractures in metamorphic rocks. They are generally a brownish purple and patchy in color.
Colorado, USA -- druzy clusters form crusts inside of fissures in sandstone, often on top of a crust of green fluorite. Crystals are dark but rather small.
Italy -- both Vera Cruz like crystals, although not as well defined, and large parallel growth clusters with good evenly distributed color.
Germany -- associated with colorful agates that form a druzy light-colored crust.
Ural Mountains, Russia -- a very clear and dark variety that is cut for fine expensive gemstones, natural uncut clusters are rarely on the market.