Amethyst is the official birthstone for February as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is also the gemstone for the 6th anniversary of marriage and the birth stone for the Zodiac sign of Pisces. It has been one of the most popular crystalline quartzes and a great deal of the 19th and 20th century jewelry contains the gemstone. Russian amethysts are considered the best, because it develops a reddish color in artificial light. However, amethysts can be found in all shapes of purple, from pastel lavender hues to the intense Siberian amethyst that displays highlights of magenta when faceted. Actually, the term “Siberian” is used for any rich purple material, wherever it comes from (same habits apply to the famous “Paraibas” for example, which are not systematically associated to their geographic and historical Brazilian origins). Amethysts belong to the family of Quartz which includes citrine, rock crystal, rose quartz, quartz rutile and aventurine…These gemstones have been used since the dawn of history. Beads of quartz have been found in caves in Israel that were occupied between 5000 and 6000 years ago, and quartz of different types has been honored and worshiped through the ages and worn as amulets to protect against bad luck and poor health.
Once available only to royalty, plentiful supplies have made amethyst more widely available in modern times. Today, because of its availability and affordability, amethyst is used in mass-market jewelry as well as custom designer pieces. This makes amethyst one of the world’s most popular colored gems and the most commercially important gem-quality quartz variety. But from a gemological perspective, amethysts which are natural and non-treated have the same aura and beauty as any other gemstone. They have been produced deep in Earth’s mantle, thanks to a delicate combination of miracles involving heat, pressure and stability for millions of years.
From an artistic point of view, amethysts become inspiring stars. As the Greek legends of Antiquity go, once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden on her way to worship at the Temple of Diana (=Artemis). She had the misfortune of crossing the path of the god of wine Bacchus (= Dionysius): angered at a mortal woman who failed to pay him the proper respect, he had just vowed to take his revenge upon the next person he met…The drunken God called out his beasts to chase the frightened girl, who ran for her life and called out in despair to Artemis for protection. The Goddess turned her into a sparkling white stone, the Quartz. Dionysus, seeing the error of his ways and feeling remorse wept and spilled his wine onto the crystal, turning it purple for all eternity. And so the maiden Amethyst lent her name to the crystal that was revered by the ancients for its power to cure drunkenness and calm physical passions.
Doesn’t these historical and gemological characteristics make amethysts perfect gemstones for high jewelry designers? Joel Arthur Rosenthal of the mythical house of JAR (picture below) often used Siberian amethysts in his designs. As the legend goes, his first jewelry designs were actually composed of amethyst and citrine rings. Today these pieces would be most probably estimated by Christie’s and Sotheby’s way above their gemological value, and rather their artistic one.
As an example of high jewelry using amethysts, this necklace (see picture above), circa 1900 was sold at Sotheby's New York in December 2007 for $115,000 USD. It is a true example of how the amethyst brings a unique flavor to a fairly classical design of this era and composed of versatile floral inspired motifs. Cut in modem hexagonal shapes, the amethysts bring a sense of drama, inspiring the initiated few to appreciate a truly romantic interpretation of the maiden Amethyst.
Amethysts are indeed everywhere. They are not a cheap solution to a dramatic design. They have an artistic worth of their own, and natural non treated stones (preferably Siberian) have collectible value. Not to mention amethysts in dark purple tones could suit both women and men. After all, isn’t purple associated with royalty? It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition.
So, my dear jewelry lovers, let’s promote how unique and special this gemstone can be, and let it be desired yet respected. I’m sure maiden Amethyst would agree.