History of Jewelry: Amethyst

Posted by on Jul 11, 2012 in Blog, Gem Class, Gems | 70 Comments

This purple stone celebrates level-headed sobriety as it comes from the Greek word “amethystos” meaning “not drunken.”  Ancient banquets frequently served wine in Amethyst goblets to promote soberness in guests through the long hours of feasting.  The legend behind the name stems from Dionysus, the Greek god of intoxication.  One day he was very angry and cursed the first person to cross him, which happened to be Amethyst, a young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana.  Amethyst prayed to Diana for protection as Dionysus released tigers on the maiden and in return, Diana turned Amethyst into a statue of pure crystalline quartz.  Dionysus immediately wept tears of wine in remorse which stained the quartz purple and thus creating the gem we know today.

Amethyst is also representative of piety and celibacy; bishop’s rings have been set with amethyst since the Middle Ages.  Leonardo da Vinci believed that amethyst could prevent evil thoughts while sharpening intelligence.  Tibetan Buddhists often use amethyst in meditation rosaries to aid in peace and tranquility.  Medieval European soldiers used amethyst amulets for protection and healing.

Amethyst is the traditional February birthstone.  The color range is from light pink to deep purple which comes from iron impurities in its quartz structure.  It was formally a precious gem with values similar to diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald but has since been modified to semi-precious after large deposits were discovered in Brazil.

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