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A Passion for Purple
Known for its striking purple-violet color, amethyst is one of the most instantly recognizable gemstones used in jewelry today.
As the traditional gemstone for those born in February, amethyst is the most valued quartz variety and is in high demand for all different types of jewelry.
Thanks to vast natural deposits located in various spots around the globe, amethyst can be a fantastic economical option for use in jewelry as the stones are usually less expensive to source than cardinal gemstones.
For today’s blog post, I have decided to highlight this gemstone by providing some trivia, looking at some well-known amethysts, and by exploring the gem’s historical lore and symbolic meanings.
The word Amethyst is derived from the Greek word amyethystos, which loosely means “not intoxicating” as ancient Greeks believed that the stone could protect humans from drunkenness.
Amethyst is a type of the mineral quartz and the stone gets its purple hue from irradiation.
Much of the world’s supply of Amethyst comes from South America, with large deposits of the stone being found throughout Brazil and parts of Uruguay.
In addition to the large quantity found in South America, Amethyst is also mined in places across the globe, including Austria, India, Russia, South Korea, and Zambia.
The largest amethyst mine in North America is located in the northwest part of Ontario, Canada.
Surprisingly, there are many places in the United States in which Amethyst can be mined. The states where the stone has been mined stretch across the country and include the likes of Arizona, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Maine, and South Carolina.
One particularly sought-after version of the stone is the “Deep Siberian” Amethyst which is mined in Russia. Deep Siberian stones are noted for their particular shade of purple and are quite rare to find, making them some of the most expensive Amethysts around.
Amethyst was one of the cardinal gemstones up until the 1900s when large amounts of the stone were found in mines in Brazil.
In addition to being the birthstone for February, amethyst is also traditionally the gem given for the sixth wedding anniversary.
Unlike many other gemstones, the value of an Amethyst stone largely depends on the color displayed rather than its carat weight.
If exposed to certain light sources for an extended period, the color and hue of an amethyst could potentially fade.
Queen Elizabeth II has been known to wear amethyst jewelry, in particular the Kent Amethysts which feature a demi-parure as well as a few different brooches.
The Delhi Sapphire
Despite the incredibly misleading name, the “Delhi Sapphire” is actually an amethyst, and is one of the most recognizable amethyst jewelry pieces in the world. The Delhi Sapphire was looted from a temple in Kanpur in India back in 1857 by an Englishman who was known as Colonel Ferris. After stealing the amethyst from a temple and bringing it back to England, Ferris experienced financial misfortune and health problems. After some of his other family members became ill as well, his family began to think the Delhi Sapphire was cursed. The piece eventually made its way to the Natural History Museum in London and is now on public display.
The Napoleonic Amethyst Parure Tiara
Amethyst has been a staple in the royal jewelry collections throughout history, with perhaps none being more famous than the Napoleonic Amethyst Parure Tiara which belongs to the Swedish Royal Family.
This piece was originally an extravagant necklace that featured fifteen large amethysts that were surrounded by diamonds. The necklace was originally owned by Josephine de Beauharnais, who was the first wife of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
The necklace itself was particularly heavy and difficult to wear, and in the 1970s, Queen Silvia of Sweden had it fashioned into an ornate tiara. Various members of the Swedish Royal family have been spotted wearing the tiara at public outings over the past decade.
Historical Lore and Symbolism
Dating back to Ancient Egypt, amethyst has a remarkably interesting history and has held symbolic value to different cultures throughout recent history.
The Ancient Egyptians were among the first to utilize amethyst as a gemstone for jewelry, often engraving images into the gems to make exquisitely detailed pieces. The earliest recorded use of amethyst in Egypt dates to 3100 BCE.
Amethyst held a special significance to the Ancient Greeks, as it was fashioned into drinking vessels and worn by both the Greeks and Romans alike.
The stone also had symbolic importance throughout the Middle Ages as it was believed that amethyst could serve to heal, protect, and help its wearers maintain an even keel. This is reflected in the fact that many medieval soldiers wore amethyst pieces during battle for protection.
Amethyst continues to have symbolic meaning to this day within the Church of England as Anglican bishops commonly wear rings made with amethyst which honor the mindset of the Apostles during Pentecost.
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All of my jewelry is handmade by me in my studio on the Seacoast area of NH.