Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Regal Amethyst

Amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February as well as the Zodiac stone for the constellation of Pisces. A gift of this deep, dark purple prismatic stone is symbolic of protection and the power to overcome difficulty. It is said to strengthen the bond in a love relationship, and is traditionally given as the anniversary gemstone for the 6th year of marriage (just when couples perhaps are in need something with these attributes?).

The ancient Greeks believed that this gemstone held many powers, among them protection against intoxication. In fact, the Greek word "amethystos" basically can be translated as "not drunken." This was due to a belief that amethyst would ward off the effects of alcohol, and it was common practice to serve fermented beverages from amethyst goblets in the belief that this would prevent overindulgence. I am making a mental note to remember to bring my amethyst goblet to next year’s Super Bowl party.

Deposits of this gemstone are found in Brazil, Canada, Australia, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka; and in the United States (Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Colorado). Defined deep purple stones found in Guerrero, Mexico are some of the most valuable and prized in the world.

In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.

The color purple is traditionally the color of royalty and amethyst has been used throughout history to adorn the rich and powerful monarchs and rulers. The Royal Orb and Sceptre used in coronation ceremonies in the United Kingdom, Great Britian and Northern Ireland feature amethysts; the Orb (left) contains a large octagonal stone below its 365 diamond cross. One of the world’s largest amethysts is in the Sceptre (right), smack between a diamond encrusted cross and the world’s largest known diamond, the Star of Africa which weighs in at a mere 530 carats.

I think one of the most stunning examples still remaining today of amethyst crown jewelry is the Swedish Amethyst Tiara and Parure (above, clockwise from left: earrings, necklace, regeant dress swag and two brooches), favored by Queen Silvia of Sweden and shown here worn by Crown Princess Victoria towards the front of her head (below left).

Today, due to its widespread availability, amethyst is a lovely and fortunately affordable gemstone that is found in a wide variety of cut and uncut stones that many can all possess and admire; regardless of whether or not it is your particular birthstone. 


~ Find out the grade of the amethyst. Amethysts are often separated into 3 categories: Siberian, Uruguayan or Bahain. Siberian is the highest grade amethyst, Uruguayan falls in the middle and Bahain is the lowest.

~ Examine the color of the gemstone. The deep and rich violet colored stones will be the most expensive while the lighter colors will be more affordable.

~ Inquire if the stone is synthetic. Over 70 percent of amethysts on the market are synthetic.

~ Check the clarity. You want a stone that is clear with few inclusions.

~ Know the terminology. If you are looking for true amethyst jewelry, do not buy a piece labeled as Oriental amethyst. This term actually refers to a sapphire that has the same violet color as an amethyst.

~ Purchase a piece of amethyst jewelry with a clean cut. If the stone is cut well, it will maximize the intensity of the amethyst's color.

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