Amethyst is transparent purple quartz and is the most popular of the quartz varieties used in jewellery. The colour range varies from pale lilac to deep purple, the latter being the most valuable particularly with rose flashes.
Quartz is the most abundant and common mineral used for jewellery and is found in many different forms such as citrine, rose quartz, rock crystal, tiger eye and smoky quartz.
The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myths. Dionysus, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a mere mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path.
He created fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden, on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. At the sight of the beautiful statue, Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today. Such beauty born of a god's hangover!
The Greek work "amethystos" can be translated as "not drunken." Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it! The gemstone still symbolizes sobriety.
Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst was able to dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence (so that was his secret!).
Because amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, amethyst was very important in the ornamentation of Catholic and other churches in the Middle Ages. It was, in particular, considered to be the stone of bishops and bishops still often wear amethyst rings.
In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.
Amethyst is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, Zambia, Namibia and other African countries. Very dark amethyst, mostly in small sizes, is also mined in Australia.
Amethyst is usually available as a cut stone but can also be found in cabochon form when it resembles rich glossy black-current jellies.
Amethyst is the birthstone for February and the gemstone for the sixth wedding anniversary.