Ten facts about Amethyst, February's birthstone

Beautiful, regal Amethyst is one of February's birthstones.

Read on to find out more this rich purple gem, including Greek myths
 about it's name!

1. Garnet is Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz and the most valued member of the quartz family. It must be purple to be amethyst, but it can display a range of shades including deep purple, light lilac, lavender and mauve.

2. Amethyst is on the Mohs scale at 7 which makes it very scratch resistant - but not impossible to damage!

3. Top quality amethyst is a deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes.  The rich purple colour made amethyst a stone of royalty for many thousands of years. Unfortunately most amethyst gemstones on the market today are heat-treated to produce a deeper colour. Heat treating is permanent and these stones will not fade over time. Unless otherwise stated, assume that any amethyst you purchase today has been heat treated to increase the depth of colour. Also, note that most citrine available on the market today is actually heat treated amethyst - maybe just forget that last paragraph and concentrate on how beautiful it is!  

4.  The two main sources of amethyst are Brazil and Zambia although it is also found in Uruguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and the US state of Arizona. 
5.Gem-quality amethyst used to be considered just as valuable as rubies and sapphires. It was considered rare until large Brazilian deposits were found in the 18th century, and until then it was an expensive stone reserved only for the richest in society. It can be found in the Crown Jewels of several countries. For example, a large cabochon amethyst sits above the Cullinan I diamond (the second largest cut diamond in the world) in the Imperial Sceptre of the British Crown Jewels.
6. Amethyst gets its purple color from iron oxide in the quartz. After the stone crystalizes, gamma rays that are emitted by radioactive materials inside the rock. They irradiate the iron, turning it purple.

7. Amethyst gets its name from amethysts, the Greek word for sober. According to legend, it originated when Bacchus, the God of Wine, grew angry at mortals. He vowed the next mortal that crossed his path would be eaten by tigers. At that time, a beautiful young maiden named Amethyst was on her way to worship the Goddess Diana. Diana, knowing of Bacchus vow, turned Amethyst into a pillar of colorless quartz to protect her from the tigers. Bacchus, witnessing the miracle, repented and poured wine over Amethyst, staining her purple. This led to the belief that drinking wine from a cup made of amethyst would prevent drunkenness.

8. Tibetian Buddhist monks use amethysts to make prayer beads. The beads are used during prayer and meditation to help the monks concentrate as it is believed that amethyst helps to calm the mind.

9. The world's largest amethyst geode stands at 3.27 meters tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes. "The Empress of Uruguay" was discovered in 2007 and took 3 months to exacvate. It is now on show in Queensland, Australia, but since 2011 it has sadly been missing a piece due to a vandal breaking off a piece the size of a tennis ball.

10. Amethysts are often found as geodes. A geode consists of a cavity lined with crystals. Gas bubbles become trapped in cooling lava, sometimes merging to form quite large cavities. Eventutally hot mineralised solutions seep into the cavities and deposited crystals, and this creates the treasures found today.

11. And a lastly bonus fact for you... Leonardo da Vinci believed amethyst had the power to control evil thoughts, to quicken intelligence, and to make men shrewd in business matters!

Want to find out more about using gemstones in your jewellery?
Here are some useful blog posts and tutorials.

And for weekly jewellery making tips and a place to share your work and ask for advice join The Jeweller's Bench Café facebook group! Just click on the photo...

Joanne Tinley

The Jeweller's Bench is run by Joanne  Tinley. She has been making her own jewellery for as long as she can  remember and left her first career as a school teacher to set up  business as a  jewellery designer and tutor nearly 15 years ago. She is  self-taught and like many people started with wire and beads. Learning  how to solder, however, opened up a whole new world of jewellery making,  one that she is keen to share! There is something so magical about  watching solder flow through a seam, joining  two pieces of metal  together smoothly.