If you were born in February, your birthstone is amethyst – the purple variety of quartz that has captivated mankind for millennia. Its lilac to deep purple hues can be cut into many shapes and sizes, and it can be manufactured in a lab as well as mined. Amethyst, the February birthstone, can be found in the collections of royal families throughout Europe and Asia. Now it’s within reach of most consumers. Consider buying a stunning amethyst for the king or queen of your heart – or treat yourself to a royal present. If your birthday is in February, then wearing an amethyst can also be a symbol of personal empowerment and inner strength.
The name “amethyst” derives from the Greek amethystos, which means “a remedy against drunkenness,” a benefit long ascribed to the purple birthstone. Because of its wine-like color, early Greek mythology associated the gem with Bacchus, the god of wine. Amethyst was also believed to keep the wearer clear headed and quick witted in battle and business affairs. Renaissance Europeans thought it calmed lovers overrun by passion.
Amethyst is the gem traditionally given for the sixth wedding anniversary. Wear it in celebration of your wedding nuptials or as your February birthstone and you’ll be in royal company: Catherine the Great (Empress Catherine II of Russia, 1729–1796) had a penchant for the gem and decked herself in amethyst necklaces, earrings and other ornaments. The famous jewelry connoisseur Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (1896–1986), made a memorable statement when she wore a lavish Cartier-designed amethyst bib necklace to a gala in Versailles in 1953.
Russia was the major source of amethyst until the 19th century, when large deposits were found in Brazil. Once as rare as ruby or emerald, amethyst was suddenly in abundance. Today, the most important sources of amethyst are in Africa and South America. Brazil is still a major supplier, especially its southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, though the rough amethyst mined there tends to have a lighter color than amethyst found in other countries. Amethyst from Brazil sometimes forms in hollow, crystal-lined geodes so large you can stand in them.
The Anahí mine in Bolivia is another prominent source for amethyst. Hidden in the Pantanal wetlands, the Anahí mine is shrouded in fascinating lore. It was discovered by a Spanish conquistador in the 1600s, given to him as dowry when he married Anahí (a princess from the Ayoreo tribe), forgotten for three centuries, and rediscovered in the 1960s. The Anahí mine is also famous in gem circles as the source of the unusual bicolored amethyst-citrine crystals called ametrine.
Amethyst is a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means that it is appropriate for daily use in rings and other jewelry, but over time it may show wear and require repolishing. Because this February birthstone is more susceptible to damage than harder gems such as rubies, sapphires and diamonds, you risk scratching your amethyst jewelry if you place it next to these harder stones...
Heat treatment is the most common technique for improving the color and marketability of natural amethyst. Heat treatment can’t make pale amethyst darker, but it can lighten the color of very dark amethyst and make it more attractive. It can also remove unwanted brownish inclusions in some amethysts. Some amethyst turns yellow – to citrine – with heat treatment.