February Birthstone

7 February 2023

February’s gemstone is the deep purple quartz we call amethyst.  Favored by royals throughout Europe and Asia, its mystical powers include personal fortitude and strength.  While the purple can vary from violet to lilac, when heated it will morph into a dark yellow or orange.

The name stems from amethystos, a Greek word for “a remedy against drunkenness”.   Associated with its color that reminds us of wine, it is often connected to Bacchus.  It is thought to keep the wearer clear headed and sharp in battle or in business affairs.  During the Renaissance, people thought it could subdue passion between lovers.

Originally Russia was the major source of amyethyst until large deposits were found in Brazil in the 19th century.  Today it is found in Africa as well.  Brazil, still a major supplier, tends to produce a rough stone that is lighter in color and can sometimes form hollow, crystal-lined geodes.  Also found in the United States around Phoenix, the arid, rattlesnake-infested area produces some of the best crystals.  Bolivia’s Anahi mine produces unusual bicolored crystals of amethyst and citrine, called ametrine.

There are also synthetic amethyst stones.  They are made from the same chemical and physical composition and is difficult to distinguish from a natural stone.  If you have doubts, you can have the stone tested but it is rather expensive and time consuming.  Merchants are required to inform the buyer if it is natural or synthetic.

Most gemstones are priced by carat weight, amethysts are valued by the deepness of the violet.  Today the stone is reasonably priced at $20 to $40 per carat.  It is very durable and can be used in all sorts of jewelry.

Amethyst can be treated with heat to modify its color.  Very dark stones can be lightened to be more appealing to the buyer and will also remove any brown imperfections.  Be careful, because heat can also turn the stone to a yellowish citrine.  The heat will change the color permanently and can also cause the gem to become more brittle.  Comparing the hardness of amethyst to other stones, it is fine for daily use but over time it may need to be polished.  However, if it has been heat treated, any edges or corners can chip.

If it needs a little cleaning, use a mild soap and soft brush.  Sometimes ultrasonic cleaning is appropriate but avoid steam cleaning.

Interesting facts include:

  • Buddhist monks use amethyst as prayer beads, which they feel help them concentrate on their prayers and meditations. They have also used this gem, as well as others, to help diagnose diseases.
  • This is the stone associated with sixth and seventeenth anniversaries.
  • It is considered an emblem of the twelve apostles.
  • It is said that St. Valentine wore an amethyst ring with Cupid carved into it.
  • It was a favorite of Catherine the Great and she often wore jewelry made from it. The Duchess of Windsor (former Wallis Simpson) wore a Cartier-designed necklace to a gala in Versailles in 1953.

Not especially expensive, if you like the color purple, it is very affordable in various pieces of jewelry, even if it is not your birthstone.

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