Amethyst

Purple Variety of Quartz (SiO2)

Amethyst is a transparent, coarse-grained, purple variety of quartz (SiO2) and has long been a the most important quartz variety used in jewelry. The presence of manganese in quartz produces this characteristic purple color, and additional iron content varies the coloration. Its color is unparalleled, and even other, more expensive purple gemstones are often compared to its color and beauty.

Although it must always be purple to be amethyst, it can and does have a wide range of purple shades from pale lilac to deep purple. The pale colors are sometimes called "Rose de France" and can be seen set in Victorian jewelry. The deep colors are the most valuable, particularly a rich purple with rose flashes.

Amethyst can occur as long prismatic crystals that have a six sided pyramid at either end or can form as druzes that are crystalline crusts that only show the pointed terminations. As a mineral specimen, amethyst is popular for its color and nice crystal shapes that produce a handsome, purple, sparkling cluster. Its physical properties are those of quartz.

The name "amethyst" comes from the Greek meaning "not drunken," and amethyst has long been considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness. Wine goblets were often carved from it, and the gemstone still symbolizes sobriety to this day.

The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from the Greeks. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal he encountered. After Dionysus created tigers to carry out his plan, a beautiful young maiden named Amethyst appeared on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from Dionysus' tigers. At the sight of the beautiful statue, Dionysus is said to have wept tears of wine, staining the quartz purple and creating the gem amethyst.

The color purple is traditionally the color of royalty and amethyst has been used since the dawn of history to adorn the rich and powerful monarchs and rulers. Fine amethysts are featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty.

Amethyst is mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 stones adorning the breastplate of the high priests of Yahweh. Because amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, it was an important ornament of Catholic and other churches of the Middle Ages. It was considered to be the stone of bishops, who still often wear amethyst rings. In Tibet, the amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it. Amethyst is the birthstone for February.

Were it not for its widespread availability, amethyst would be very expensive. Different localities produce unique varieties of amethyst, and experts can often identify the source mine of a particular amethyst's origin. Amethysts may be found throughout the world, with notable western hemisphere occurrences in Brazil; Uruguay; Ontario; Vera Cruz, Mexico; Guerrero, Mexico; Maine; North Carolina; Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Citrine is a yellow-to-orange quartz gemstone variety that is rare in nature but is often created by heating amethyst. Most commercial citrine is made in this manner.

AMETHYST

Chemistry

Crystal System

Hardness

SiO2

Tetrahedral

7.0 (Mohs' scale)

Cleavage

 Fracture

Specific Gravity

Rhombohedral

Conchoidal

2.65

VARIETIES

  Color, Transparency,
Luster & Streak
Color: Various shades of purple
Transparency: Transparent to sub-translucent
Luster: Glassy

-- Bob Katz

 


Amethyst and Quartz Products
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