Amethyst is one of the most renowned and visually appealing gemstones in the world. As a variety of quartz, it gets its mesmerising purple colours from iron impurities within its structure. From the deep, dark purple shades that it's most famous for, to the soft touch of pale lilac, the colour spectrum of Amethyst is truly beautiful.
Amethysts can also be found in a variety of shapes and sizes, from large, defined crystal points to smaller clusters, all equally beautiful. Amethyst has also been a gemstone of choice for royal jewellery since ancient times, gracing crowns and sceptres with its regal purple charm. Nowadays, amethyst remains a sought-after gemstone for jewelry thanks to its beautiful colour and affordability.
Amethyst is the universally recognised name for this gemstone, with its origins tracing back to the Ancient Greek term 'amethystos', translating to 'not drunk'. Despite the lack of clarity about why the stone was given this name, one theory suggests its deep purple colour resemblance to wine could be the cause. There are no significant misnomers or other names associated with this gemstone.
Amethyst is celebrated for its beautiful colours, ranging from deep vivid purple to pale lilac hues. The colour of Amethyst is natural and varies depending on its source.
The geographical sources of Amethyst are as diverse as its colours. Significant deposits of this gemstone can be found in Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Russia and the USA. In particular, Brazil and Uruguay are home to enormous deposits in volcanic rocks formed from ancient lava flows, making these regions crucial contributors to the global Amethyst supply.
The beautiful purple amethyst is the birthstone of February.
Amethyst has been a coveted gemstone since ancient times. Its rich, royal purple hue has often found its way into crowns and sceptres, symbolic of royalty. One of the most remarkable examples of its use can be seen in the British Crown Jewels, where large, faceted Amethyst gemstones elegantly complement the Sovereign's Orb and the Sceptre, positioned just above the iconic Cullinan diamond.
Despite its royal history and impressive visual appeal, Amethyst is easily obtained in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, its value increases for gemstones with intense colour and no visible zoning.
Quality in Amethyst is usually assessed based on a combination of factors, including its clarity, colour saturation, and size. Amethyst known as Russian or Siberian is particularly valued for its intense violet colour with red flashes. Gemstones without visible zoning or inclusions, and boasting an intense colour are considered the most valuable.
Amethyst can be subjected to several treatments to enhance its appearance. A metal coating may be applied using thin film deposition to produce a rainbow-like iridescence, termed as rainbow Amethyst. Dying is also a possible treatment for achieving a deeper colour.
Heat treatment is also often used to either improve or change the colour of the gemstone. Gentle heating at low temperatures can lighten deep colours, while high temperatures can bleach the purple hue to a colourless or pale yellow. A lot of the citrines in the market are created this way.
Synthetic Amethyst has been commercially available since the 1970s, and while it lacks the natural inclusions found in genuine Amethyst, it can be difficult to distinguish without laboratory analysis. Other gems such as purple sapphire, purple spinel, and purple garnet can sometimes be mistaken for Amethyst, although they can be distinguished based on their isotropic nature.
Thanks to its hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, Amethyst is a great choice for jewelry. It is generally recommended to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, as the colour of some Amethyst can fade due to ultraviolet light. High temperatures should also be avoided, as they may cause the colour to fade or alter.
From ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to the Middle Ages and Renaissance times, Amethyst has been treasured as a gemstone for thousands of years. The British Crown Jewels hold some of the most famous pieces of Amethyst, showcasing its captivating charm on the Sovereign's Orb and the Sceptre.
While Amethyst is quite distinct, it could potentially be confused with several other gemstones such as purple sapphire, purple spinel and purple garnet. However, they can be distinguished by their isotropic nature. Paler Amethyst material may also be mistaken for spodumene variety kunzite and pink scapolite.
Amethyst shares its quartz composition with a multitude of other gemstones. It's closely related to citrine, another variety of quartz that is distinguished by its warm, yellow to reddish-orange hues. Interestingly, high temperature heat treatment of Amethyst can result in citrine. Despite this close relationship, the two gemstones differ significantly in colour, which allows for easy differentiation.