Amethyst might be a gem of antiquity, set into gold rings as early as 2500 BC, but it remains an important fashion gemstone. February’s birthstone has a timeless beauty, rich colour and durability.
Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and mythical creator of Amethyst
Name & History of Amethyst
The story of how Amethyst came to be is as follows. Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine (or Bacchus to ancient Romans) was upset after being shunned by a passing mortal so he swore revenge on the next unfortunate soul to cross his path. The unlucky woman was Amethyst, and a big fan of the goddess Diana, followed by two hungry tigers courtesy of Dionysus. As Amethyst screamed, Dionysus filled his goblet ready for the main event, maiden versus tiger. Unimpressed by Dionysus's shenanigans, all-seeing Diana quickly turned Amethyst into a Quartz statue. While protected from harm, unfortunately the spell couldn't be reversed, causing a guilt-ridden Dionysus to weep tears of sorrow. Collapsing as his tears dripped into his goblet, its contents splashed onto the statue, creating the purple gem we call Amethyst.
Composition of Amethyst
A variety of macrocrystalline (large crystal) Quartz (from the Saxon 'querklufterz', meaning cross-vein-ore) that occurs in transparent pastel roses to deep purples, Amethyst owes its colours to iron.
Properties of Amethyst
Colour is Amethyst's most important consideration, with the deeper shades commanding higher prices. The most valuable Amethysts are medium to dark toned, transparent and pure violet with no shading toward red or blue, although blue or red flashes are desirable and highly coveted. Amethyst crystals occur with reasonably few inclusions, so the standard is eye-clean, with no visible inclusions when the gem is examined 15 cm from the naked eye. As it's a popular gem with gemstone cutters and jewellers, you'll find more different shapes and cuts of Amethyst than you will for many other gems.
Source of Amethyst
Found on every continent in varying amounts, Amethyst can vary depending on its origin. Brazil is currently the most well-known source, and the first Brazilian Amethysts arrived in Europe in 1727. Uruguayan Amethyst is noted for its spectacular beauty. Deep purple Siberian Amethyst is no longer available, although 'Siberian' is often incorrectly used to describe any intensely coloured Amethyst.
Ametrine (also Amethyst-Citrine Quartz, Trystine or Golden Amethyst) is a bicolour blend of Citrine and Amethyst. Its unusual colour is due to iron in different states of oxidation. While its main deposit in Bolivia has been famous since the 17th century, it's only become commercially available since 1980. Fine specimens traditionally display intense colours evenly split, but free-form 'fantasy' cuts that ignore a balanced contrast between the two colours, as well as concave cutting that creates a blend of colours in more traditional shapes (Sunburst Ametrine), are increasingly popular.
Bi Colour Amethyst
Caused by environmental changes during formation, Bi Colour Amethyst (also Amethyst Quartz) is a bicolour blend of Amethyst and White Quartz. Faceted to showcase this feature, fine specimens have a balanced contrast between their colours.
Hailing solely from the Montezuma mine in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Blueberry Quartz has only been available since January 2007. This gem is aptly named 'Blueberry Quartz' to perfectly describe its vivid blueberry colour. Incredibly scarce due to the characteristics of the rock where it is found, Blueberry Quartz comprises less than 0.01 percent of Brazil's total production of Quartz gemstones. This scarcity is further complicated by extraction difficulties; the mine is over 150 metres deep and very damp.
Named for 'citron', the French word for lemon, Citrine occurs naturally with Amethyst and is also coloured by iron. It comes in pastel lemon yellows, golden yellows, mandarin oranges and 'Madeira' reds (for the wine). Caused by environmental changes, Bi Colour Citrine (also Citrine Quartz) is a bicolour blend of Citrine and White Quartz. While Brazilian and Madagascan Citrine is generally regarded as the best quality, Brazil is the world's leading producer with most of its Citrine coming from the state of Rio Grande do Sul .
Ranging from pastel to deep forest green, Green Amethyst is the green variety of Quartz. It is also known as Vermarine, Green Quartz, Lime Citrine or by its gemmological name, Prasiolite (from the Greek words 'prason', meaning leek, and 'lithos', meaning stone). Olive Quartz is a related colour variety.
Ouro Verde Quartz
Meaning 'green gold' in Portuguese, Ouro Verde Quartz is named for its vivid yellow chartreuses; yellow with a splash of green similar in colour to Yellow Chartreuse liqueur. This hue is unique to Brazil's Bocarica mine, a very old Aquamarine mine that ironically hasn't yielded any Aquamarine in approximately four years.
Rose de France Amethyst
Hailing from Brazil, 'Rose de France' Amethyst (also Lavender Amethyst) is pastel lilac pink. A popular Victorian gem, it often features in antique jewellery.
The pink variety of quartz, Rose Quartz is rarely transparent, displaying a beautiful misty appearance.
While Quartz is typically prized for its clarity, many minerals occur as inclusions in Quartz, creating attractive and interesting gemstones. With black, golden yellow, reddish-orange, silver-grey or silver inclusions, Rutile (from the Latin 'rutilus', meaning ruddy) is the most popular. Rutile Quartz is called a variety of names, including Cupid's Darts, Fleches D'amour (arrows of love), Golden Rutile Quartz (pictured), Graffiti Quartz (silver-grey), Needlestone, Rutilated Quartz, Rutilite, Sagenite and Venus' Hair.
Coloured by aluminium, Smoky Quartz and its colour variety Cognac Quartz are earthy transparent Quartzes, also known as 'champagne on ice'. A variety of Smoky Quartz called Cairngorm (named for its historic source in the Scottish Highlands) is the national gem of Scotland.
The absence of metallic elements makes White Quartz colourless
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