Amethyst is the
purple variety of quartz and is a popular gemstone.
Purple has long been considered a
royal color so it is not surprising that amethyst has been so much
in demand during history. Amethyst has been popular as a gem since
Pre-Roman times. The Greek work "amethystos" basically 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! While medieval European soldiers wore
amethyst amulets as protection in battle. Fine amethysts are
featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favorite of
Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Amethyst, transparent
purple quartz is the most important quartz variety used in
Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst was able to dissipate evil
thoughts and quicken the intelligence.
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 they still
often wear amethyst rings.
In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and
rosaries are often fashioned from it. The legend of the origin of
amethyst comes from Greek myths. Dionysius, 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,
creating 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.
Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight
of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz
purple, creating the gem we know today.
Amethyst is actually a form of Quartz
- one of the most common substances on earth. Tiny amounts of iron
and aluminum turn ordinary clear quartz into amethyst. All forms
of quartz (including amethyst) are piezoelectric, making for
important applications in electronics. Tourmaline is the only
other gemstone that possesses this property.
Amethyst ranges from pale to dark
violet. The finest qualities of amethyst are a medium dark violet
with a strong secondary red color. Darker shades of amethyst may
display slight color fluctuations under different light sources.
Amethyst is not the same everywhere.
Different localities can produce a unique amethyst to that
particular region or even to that particular mine. Experts can
often identify the source mine that a particular amethyst came
from. The key to this is the specimen's color, shape of crystal,
inclusions, and associations and character of formation.
The following is a list of many of
the more noteworthy localities and some of the attributes that
characterize the amethyst found there.
Vera Cruz, Mexico -- very pale,
clear, prismatic crystals that are sometimes double terminated
and has grown on a light colored host rock. Crystals are
typically phantomed, having a clear quartz interior and an
amethyst exterior. Some are sceptered and phantomed.
Guerrero, Mexico -- dark, deep
purple, prismatic crystals that radiate outward from a common
attachment point. Often the crystals are phantomed opposite of
Vera Cruz amethyst having a purple interior with a clear or
white quartz exterior. These are some of the most valuable
amethysts in the world.
Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul,
Bahaia, Brazil -- crystals form in druzy crusts that line the
inside of sometimes large volcanic rock pockets or "vugs". Some
of the vugs form from trees that were engulfed in a lava flow
millions of years ago and have since withered away. Other vugs
are just gas bubbles in the lava. Some vugs can be quite large.
The crystals that form is usually light to medium in color and
only colored at the tops of the crystals. Most clusters form
with gray, white and blue agate and have a green exterior on the
vugs. Calcite sometimes is associated and inclusions of
cacoxenite are common.
Maraba, Brazil -- large crystals
with unattractive surfaces that are of a pale to medium color
and often carved or cut into slices.
Thunder Bay, Canada -- a distinct
red hematite inclusion just below the surface of the crystals is
unique to this locality. Clusters are druzy crusts that line the
fissures formed in ancient metamorphic rocks.
Uruguay -- crystals are dark to
medium and form in druzy crusts that line the inside of volcanic
vugs that have a gray or brown exterior. The crystals are
usually colored throughout, unlike the Brazilian crystals, and
form with a multicolored agate that often contains reds, yellows
and oranges. Often amethyst- coated stalactites and other
unusual formations occur inside these vugs.
Africa -- crystals are usually
large but not attractive. However, the interior color and
clarity are excellent and polished slices and carvings as well
as many gemstones are prized and admired.
Maine, USA -- Dark druzy clusters
that are not widely distributed today.
North Carolina, USA -- Druzy
clusters that have a bluish-violet tint.
Pennsylvania, USA -- druzy clusters
that filled fractures in metamorphic rocks. They are generally a
brownish purple and patchy in color.
Colorado, USA -- druzy clusters
form crusts inside of fissures in sandstone, often on top of a
crust of green fluorite. Crystals are dark but rather small.
Italy -- both Vera Cruz like
crystals, although not as well defined, and large parallel
growth clusters with good evenly distributed color.
Germany -- associated with colorful
agates that form a druzy light-colored crust.
Ural Mountains, Russia -- a very
clear and dark variety that is cut for fine expensive gemstones,
natural uncut clusters are rarely on the market.
Amethyst is only one of several
quartz varieties. Other varieties that form macroscopic (large
enough to see) crystals are as follows:
is a yellow to orange gemstone variety that is rare in nature
but is often created by heating Amethyst.
Milky Quartz is the cloudy white
Rock crystal is the clear variety
that is also used as a gemstone.
Rose quartz is a pink to reddish
Smoky quartz is the brown to gray