The lovely violet quartz amethyst is the highest valued member of the quartz family of stones and continues through the ages to mystify and amaze us. As the birthstone for February and the gemstone for Pisces, amethyst veils the second month of the year in its purple haze. Though the clearest and deepest colors of purple are favored for jewelry and bead making, amethyst can range from nearly clear to an opaque purple/black and registers at 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Amethyst occurs naturally in a 6 pointed crystal formation and can also be found in clusters (druse) or encased in geodes. This quartz can be sensitive to light and when heated shows tones of yellow, orange, green and clear. Most of the amethyst on the market today has been heat treated and most citrine is in fact heat treated amethyst. Prassiolite (green amethyst) is also a viable name for heat treated amethyst, as well.
Since the times of Pharaohs and Greek mythology up through the ages, amethyst has been enlisted for many purposes including healing, protection and status. In fact, the name amethyst comes from the ancient Greek words a-("not") and methustos-("intoxicated") and was believed that wearing amethyst or drinking from an amethyst vessel would protect the owner from drunkenness or intoxication. Ancient Egyptians used amethyst to create ‘intaglio engraved’ gems; cabachons that were carved to create portraits of important leaders and symbols of historic importance. These carvings were done only for the luxury of kings and amethyst even appears in the Bible as one of the 12 stones on the breastplate of Aaron, representing one of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
All quartz is used to clarify and concentrate psychic activity but the beloved purple quartz is believed to aid in healing, spiritual insight, courage, protection and happiness. As the 7th Chakra stone, amethyst is the perfect gift to give prior to birth or to encourage sobriety and healing.
Today, amethyst is widely mined all over the world and is still readily available and affordable. A huge deposit was found in the early 1900's in Brazil and thus lowered the market value of the stone even until today. Amethyst would be much more expensive today were it not as available because it exhibits many of the traits we look for in higher priced gemstones. Purple is known as the color of royalty and with its rich, variable tones, amethyst has become a staple in jewelry-making, beadwork and adornment. Matching deep purple amethyst with gold beads and findings can enhance this regal quality. We occasionally see this stone in vintage gold or platinum settings though it is more commonly set in silver for rings, earrings and pendants. Try amethyst with amber and silver beads for a unique blend of ancient and modern, or mix with pearls for an instantly classic look!